The Burwell Lute Tutor (ca. 1660-1672)

[I have added some punctuation and expanded some abbreviations; otherwise unedited the excerpts.]

[fol. 16]

The 6th Chap:... First the Carriage of the handes The Comely posture in playing And the Strikeing of the Stringes

...[Several paragraphs, mainly about posture, omitted]...

For the right hand it must be placed betweene the Rose and the Bridge but nearest to the bridge. Your hands must lye vppon the belly of the Lute with the little finger onely which must be as it were glued vnto it and Keepe the Thumbe as much as one can leaueing vppon the Base. It must be before all the rest of the hand marching as the Captaine of the fingers. That hand must be riseing in the middle in the forme of an Arche that you may not smother the Stringes.

[fol. 16v]

For the left hand the posture of it is more difficult. The Thumbe must be placed vnder the Necke of the Lute betweene the forefinger and the middle finger and betweene the brimme of the necke and the middle of it, walking with the hand vpp and downe the necke of the Lute soe that the hand be lifted vpp and thrusted by the wrist in the forme of an Arche. And therein consiste the grace of the hand.

The fingers must be bowed inwardly and the fingers ends as neare the Lute as possibly they may be and neare one another without touching one another Soe that the hand covers fower frettes.

When you beginne to play the hand must cover B: C: D: E [i.e., the first four frets]. If you must goe lower the Thumbe must be as vsefull and as nimble as the fingers. I haue noe need to expresse the hands must be kept white and cleane. It is the marke of a Gentleman and a Lady. And it were better never play of the Lute then to play with nasty hands. For the nailes they must be short and smoothly cutt which some doe with a little file.

For the strikeing of the Lute that concerneth rather the perfection then the begining of Learning yet in the beginning tis to be observed to strike hard and neare the bridge but take heed that you never lay the little finger vppon the Bridge or behind the Bridge. Neither strike the Stringes with the nailes nor soe hard as if you would tare them in peeces but never leave fingers vpon the stringes, the Thumb as much as you please vpon the Base.

When you beginne to play something well you must alter your way of strikeing and flatter (as we speake) the Lute that is to strike it sometimes gently.

For as the Lute is a kind of a Language you must imitate the oratours who now raise there voice and then abate it. Now they gett asleepe the hearer and now they awaken him; now they charme him and now they amaze him. And with the same organ doe expresse twoe sorts of Sounds. Likewise in playing of the Lute, in some places you must strike hard and in others soe gently that one may hardly heare you. That variety is pleasing and produces attention of the hearer.

It belonges onely to the Lute to touch soe the same Instrument that if one did not see you he would thinke that you played vppon twoe severall Lutes.

For the left hand you cannot stopp too hard vppon the Stringes and as neare the frettes as you can. ...

Original: The Burwell Lute Tutor. Facsimile edition with an introductory study by Robert Spencer. Leeds: Boethius Press, 1974. An instruction book for lute, belonging to "Elizabeth Burwell" (signature on the first leaf), ca. 1660-1672. Most of the instructions are in the hand of Elizabeth Burwell's daughter, Mary Burwell. Errors are corrected in a different hand, most likely that of the lute instructor (possibly John Rogers, d. 1676), who also copied the musical examples in tablature. Rogers was probably himself a pupil of Ennemond Gaultier. The manuscript contains pieces by Du But, Pinel, Vincent, the Marquis de Mortmar, Ennemond Gaultier, and Jacques Gaultier. Reversed and inverted, the other end of the book is a 328-page collection of medical remedies. [Fol. 99v of the lute treatise is p. 328 of the medical portion.] The book, previously the property of Captain Anthony Hammond of Ingham, Norfolk, is now in the private collection of Robert Spencer. See Dart, "Miss Mary Burwell's Instruction Book for the Lute," The Galpin Society Journal, XI (1958), 3-62; Spencer, "Introduction" to The Burwell Lute Tutor; Poulton, "Checklist of Recently Discovered English Lute Manuscripts," Early Music, III 2 (1975), 124-125.; Boetticher, Handschriftlich UEberlieferte Lauten- und Gitarrentabulaturen des 15. bis 18. Jahrhunderts (RISM B VII), 242-243.

Gordon J. Callon, School of Music, Acadia University