Go to the West Chester University Home Page
Go to the West Chester University Home Page

Presser Music Library


by Tim Sestrick on 2019-10-28T15:56:00-04:00 in Library Instruction, Music | Comments

By guest author Kat Godfrey


This week's term is: Partbook.


In music history one and two you probably heard of a partbook. Or maybe you were watching a Netflix show about the Tudors and heard the word there! So what is it?

A partbook was often used throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is one of a set of printed or manuscript books (handwritten sources of music, shown below). 

The manuscripts were written for a specific voice part (soprano, alto, tenor, bass…), each part having its own separate book of music. Hence the name part book! So a single piece of music was spread out into these separate partbooks.

This picture shows books of music (manuscripts) for individual voices including the tenor, altus, cantus, bassus, sextus and quintus parts. When each voice sings their own individual part from their own partbook, it all comes together and sounds like a small choir. 

Instead of having to share one piece of music between a bunch of people, every part gets their own! 

Some of the earliest surviving partbooks come from around 1480, known as the ‘Glogauer Liederbuch’ (Glogau Song Book). Once music scores, which show every part together on one page, came into use during the 17th century, partbooks mostly were replaced.

If you’re interested in checking out some partbooks for yourself, the Gyffard partbook is available at the Presser Music Library: Collected Editions Scores 780.82 H319 E1 Vol.48.

 Add a Comment



Enter your e-mail address to receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.


  Follow Us

  Return to Blog
This post is closed for further discussion.