Antiquariat Jürgen Dinter

Sebastiani, Claudius [sold]

Bellum musicale … — Strasbourg 1563

Bellum musicale inter plani et mensuralis cantus reges, de principati in musicae provincia obtinendo, contendentes. — Strasbourg, Paulus Machaeropoeus [Paul Messerschmidt], 1563.

VD16 S 5192; Adams S 827.

First edition

4to (155 x 147 mm). A-X4: (88) leaves. 5 full-page woodcuts on *4 verso, I4 verso, K2 recto, L2 recto, and X4 recto. Last leaf reinforced with a paper strip in inner gutter. Lower blank margin of C2 and C3 with restauration of paper. No fly-leaves. Contemporary vellum, spotted, minor repairs to spine.

¶ Damscroder, D. e. a.: Music theory from Zarlino to Schenker. A bibliography and guide. 1990, p. 329:

”The church musicians of the mid sixteenth century viewed the musical repertory as divided into two contrasting categories: the traditional chant melodies, and the more recent developments in polyphony. Their seeming incompatibility provided Claudius Sebastiani with a clever framework for his assessment of contemporary musical practices in his Bellum musicale, wherein the two opposing camps and their strengths and weaknesses assessed in terms of readiness for battle. This conceit had appeared earlier, though less fully developed, with Ornithoparchus, whose Musicae activae micrologus (1517) was an important source for Sebastiani’s pronouncement on traditional theory.

Though neither of the two competing “kings” triumphs decisively, the overview of their attributes permits Sebastiani to remind his readers of the various rules and doctrines upon which music had been grounded, but which he feared were being neglected by more recent practioners of the art. Strict counterpoint is promoted, as is the development of skill in improvisation. His work documents the state of theory in central Europe just before the influx of Zarlino’s formulations and, later in the century, of the more radical notion of monody.“


Oxford Music Online:

”Sebastiani, Claudius, (b. Metz; fl. 157-65). German music theorist. From 1557 intil 1565 he was organist in Fribourg, where Homer Herpol was Kantor. According to Gerber, Sebastiani had also been an organist in Metz, but when he described himself in 1563 ais ‘Metensis, Organista’ he was working in Fribourg. In his Bellum musicale inter plani et mensuralis cantus reges (Strasbourg, 1563) he depicted the theories of plainchant and polyphony in the unusual form of a war between the ‘kings’ of the two ‘provinces’ about who should succeed Apollo to become the supreme in the realm of music. Both kings deploy all their resources; the battle reveals all the advantages but also all the mistakes and weaknesses of each. Sebastiani named as his immediate model Guarna’s Grammaticae opus novum seu bellum grammaticale. Ornithoparchus [Vogelhofer] (Musicae activae micrologus) had described accentus and concentus in the form of a similar fable. Sebastiani not only adopted several sections (on accentus, concord, counterpoint and cadences, as well as the ten rules of singing) from Ornithoparchus, but also the characteristics that Ornithoparchus had ascribed to his ‘kings’: thus the ‘king’ of plainchaint was ‘gravis, fecundus, sverus’ and the ‘king’ of polyphony was ‘hilaris, iucundus, amabilis’. He used Coclico’s classification of musicians into four genera, placing Herpol and Sermisy in the third category alongside, strangely, Gregory, Berno and St. Bernard. In discussing various tablatures he gave two exmaples of keyboard tablature: in the first each part has its own staff, in the second the parts are combined on two staves. Both examples have bar-lines throughout. Also noteworthy is a section for young organists on improvising variations on a given melody, in which he recommended changes of beat, mode and numbr of parts.“



The title-page shows a knight with a sword and a shield with three swords. This refers to the name of the printer: Machaeropaeus, Messerschmidt in German, cutler in English, and to the battle of music described in the book. This is followed by a Fons Musarum on the verso of leaf 4, showing the nine Muses, each with a different musical instrument. Leaves I4 verso, K2 recto, L2 recto have trees with hexachord, scales and a Scala musicales. The last woodcut shows another Fons Musarum flanked by the muses Clio and Thalia. Above the fountain you see a shield with letters C and B, the initials of Claude Bastien (Claudius Sebastianus). To the left and right of the Fons four sons of Zeus are shown: Hercules, Mercurius, Phoebus and Bacchus. The centre of the upper half of the woodcut is a figure writing, flanked by the daughters of Zeus Pallas Athena and Cytherea. Above the scribe the birds of Phoebus and Cytherea, a raven and a swan, are shown.

It is said, that the writing figure is a portrait of the author. But since the woodcut was used in Conrad Celtis, Odarum libri IV, Strasbourg; Schürer, 1513, this is nothing but a false attrribution. The equipment of the Schürer shop was bought by the Knobloch-Flach shop. In 1558 Messerschmidt acquired the latter, and by this he could use the old block, with some variances, for the new publication.

For the illustrations see in detail: W. Braun, Zur Bildaustattung in Claudius Sebastianis „Bellum musicale“ (1563), in: Musikalische Ikonographie, Laaber 1994, pp. 31-39.