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2002 articles 1995 articles

A book of cantatas and arias bought in Florence, 1723

Reinhard Strohm


THE music manuscript recently acquired by the British Library and now held as Add. S . 71535 is a most valuable specimen of the Italian Baroque tradition so well represented in collections of this country. It could almost be considered an 'English music book'. On the front flyleaf (f. i), there is what appears to be an acquisition record of probably its earliest owner, 'Willoughby Bertie Florence May 16: 1723', written in ink presumably by Bertie himself. A later entry by a different hand, immediately underneath, identifies him as 'afterwards 3rd Earl of Abingdon'. Born in 1692 as the son of James Bertie of Middlesex (d. 1735), Willoughby inherited the title of Earl of Abingdon from his uncle Montague Bertie, the second Earl, in 1743. While in Florence in August 1727, he married Anna Maria Collins; their son Willoughby, born 1740, became the fourth Earl at his father's death in 1760. Later owners of the manuscript are at present not traceable between Bertie and Raymond Leppard, who in 1994 donated the volume to the Musicians Benevolent Fund. It was sold on their behalf and for their charitable purposes by Phillips auctioneers on 25 May 1994 (lot 125), and bought for the British Library.

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