Collections of polyphonic settings of Latin verse play a pivotal role in the early history of German music printing. The Melopoiae sive harmoniae tetracenticae, published in Augsburg in 1507, was among the very first polyphonic music books printed from moveable type north of the Alps. Later, numerous printers issued volumes of polyphonic ode settings, a genre printed almost exclusively in German-speaking areas.
Despite the apparent popularity of such settings, little is known about their use. The specific Latin genre and the publications’ liminal texts suggest their use in schools. Moreover, they can be tied to the emerging interest in humanist thought north of the Alps and thus might have appealed to the generally interested reader. This dual market becomes clear in the very first publications: apart from the Melopoiae, rather lavishly decorated and in a larger format, a smaller, less luxurious version appeared. It is assumed that the former was aimed at the educated humanistically inclined reader, and the latter for schools.
This chapter will for the first time investigate who bought collections of Latin ode settings in the first half of the sixteenth century, and how they used them. Starting with the Melopoiae and its less luxurious cousin, the Harmoniae, a close examination of the surviving copies reveals the identities of some early owners. From there, we examine these and other collections of ode settings for readers’ marks and marginalia to understand where and how these books were used, adding a new facet to the study of early modern reading habits. Finally, this chapter examines how users dealt with the sometimes rather idiosyncratic, and often impractical, layout and printing of these early publications.