2014: Midway Through the Project

It seems impossible, but our project is now in its third of five years, and this year’s seminar is under way. We all arrived on the weekend of May 10-11, and the owner of the California Hotel, Signor Carlo, prepared a mid-afternoon snack for everyone … local ham, parmesan cheese, and bread; this will become a theme throughout our stay, as it has in all previous years. Good food and goood scholarship complement each other!

After a “jet lag morning” we convened at the library on Monday afternoon, where Elisa Superbi greeted us with cookies and soft drinks and gave us an overview of the contents of the library. On Tuesday, after our first few hours of work, Elisa treated us to a tour through the jewels of the library … the contents of what we have come to call the “armoire of treasures” or the “wonder cupboard.”

Each “new edition” of the seminar involves a rethinking of our research goals. Work accumulates from one year to the next—manuscripts to be photographed, data to check and edit, new software, changes to our collecting schema (those horrible files, spiky with code, that will someday become “clean,” user-friendly, searcheable records). And of course new areas of this vast collection to explore: this year we have decided to focus on one important copyist, Alessio Mortellari, from whom Greggiati bought over one hundred manuscripts. While the seminar members work on Mortellari’s scores—identifying his handwriting and its variants, separating his work from that of other scribes sometimes present in manuscripts that appear to be “his,” and separating the manuscripts that he owned and sold to Greggiati from those he actually copied—I am focusing on a census of previous owners by culling through the information already present in the SBN catalog (Servizio Nazionale Bibliografico), as well as keeping track of other copyists whose names appear in the catalog. From a preliminary survey, it appears that Greggiati may have bought the holdings of other collectors’ libraries as well as buying individual scores from dealers and others. He also seems to have acquired large numbers of manuscripts from composers, including works by others which they owned for their own study or performance.

In addition, the time seemed ripe for an overview of the archival documents that have survived from Greggiati’s own papers. Not a great deal has surfaced so far, but the files include two intriguing lists of manuscripts, including some fifty titles, complete with prices. They are not in Greggiati’s hand, and it is unclear what they represent: most of the titles listed do not appear in the collection, and the way the lists are drawn up makes it difficult to tell if they were drawn up by a book seller offering them for Greggiati to choose from, or if they represent orders that were fulfilled. Stay tuned for further details to emerge!

What is clear is that every time we return to the Greggiati Library with fresh eyes we discover new aspects of his musical interests and of his character as a bibliophile. His books, which clearly occupied a prominent place in his life, give us glimpses of his personality, which have been waiting dormant, as it were, for nearly two centuries to reveal themselves to like-minded scholars.


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