ZARLINO, Gioseffo (1517-1590). Le Institutioni Harmoniche. Venice: [Francesco dei Franceschi], 1558.
2° (309 x 210mm). Woodcut printer's device on title, many woodcut diagrams and typographical musical examples, historiated woodcut initials. (Title somewhat soiled with some marginal worming, worm puncture in lower margin of next five leaves, occasional light marginal spots and soiling.) Contemporary vellum, manuscript title on spine, modern green cloth slipcase (restored at corners and spine). Provenance: Discalced Carmelite monastery, Venice (ownership inscription and oval stamp on title) -- unidentified shelf mark -- Libreria Vinciana, Milano (bookseller's ticket) -- Michael Sharpe (book label).
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, of this classic in harmonic theory, what Monteverdi called the prima prattica ('original method') in polyphony and counterpoint, alongside which a progressive style was then emerging. Zarlino was, at the time of writing, a deacon in Venice, studying music with Adrian Willaert. In 1565 he became choirmaster of San Marco and in 1583 he turned down the bishopric of Chioggia. The Institutioni deals with the whole theory of music: the first of its four books is devoted to a panegyrical dissertation on the excellence of music; the second treats the theory of harmony, attacking the false system of tonality to which the proportions of Pythagorean theory must inevitably lead; the third treats counterpoint in a conservative manner, particularly in how a dissonance is approached and left, provoking widespread attacks by Vincenzo Galilei and others; the fourth treats a new ordering of the twelve modes. His work 'opened the way for the new tonality which has governed music from the seventeenth century to the present day' (PMM). The outermost sheet of the first quire (*1.6) exists in 2 states. One, presumably the first, has the privilege printed on the title verso, an address to the reader added to *6r, the errata ends with 322,4, and *6v is blank; in the other issue the errata lists two more corrections (335,3 and 344, 29) and the privilege appears on *6v. RISM B VI, 907; Eitner X, 332; PMM 81.