Illustrations of musical instruments in Jean-Benjamin de La Borde's Essai sur la musique ancienne et moderne

Titolo Illustrations of musical instruments in Jean-Benjamin de La Borde's Essai sur la musique ancienne et moderne
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsBlažeković, Z
JournalMusique, images, instruments: Revue française d'organologie et d'iconographie musicale

When Jean-Benjamin de La Borde (1734–1794) published his Essai sur la musique ancienne et modern (Paris, 1780), this was one of the most extensively illustrated surveys of music history published by that time. The second half of its first volume includes 57 full-page plates filled with instruments from the Guinean coast, ancient and modern China, Mediterranean antiquity, post-medieval Europe, the Arabic world, and European traditional instruments. As his sources La Borde used for the Chinese instruments Joseph-Marie Amiot’s Mémoires concernant l’histoire, les sciences, les arts, les mœurs, les usages &c des Chinois (vol. 6; Paris, 1780); for ancient instruments images Caspar Bartholin’s Tibiis veterum (Amsterdam, 1677; 1679), Giovanni Pietro Bellori's Le pitture antiche delle grotte di Roma e del sepolcro de Nasoni (Rome, 1706); Francesco Bianchini’s De tribus generibus instrumentorum musicae veterum (Rome, 1742), the Herculaneum wall paintings, likely copied from the tables in Charles Burney’s General history of music (vol. 1; London, 1776), and many instruments came from Filippo Bonanni’s Gabinetto armonico pieno d’istromenti sonori (Rome, 1722). The medieval and Renaissance instruments he researched himself on the basis of the illustrated manuscripts at the royal library in Paris. A total of several hundred instruments La Borde presented in two ways: Some he took from earlier sources with only minor changes, and those plates were both designed and etched by the certain Bouland; other instruments, shown in more fanciful and evolved compositions, were presented on plates designed by Silvestre David Mirys (1742–1810) and etched by Pierre Chenu (ca. 1718 or 1730–1795). It appears as La Borde was concerned to present images of instruments from hard to find books and until then unknown images from manuscripts. His selection has not included instruments from the tables along the “Lutherie” article in the Encyclopédie (1767) by Diderot and D’Alembert, which was at that time still widely available in France.



© 2007-2012 MOISA: Società internazionale per lo studio della musica greca e romana e della sua eredità culturale.

Sito disegnato da Geoff Piersol a aggiornato da Stefan Hagel