Few music manuscripts capture the spirit of an age as completely as the Eton Choirbook. It preserves a sound-world of late medieval England which would otherwise have been lost to silence. Through its survival – at the site for which it was made – the Choirbook gives us access to a form of worship and a musical tradition that was disrupted and almost obliterated by the Reformation. In 2018, it became the first music manuscript to be inscribed on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World register, which honours documentary heritage of outstanding national significance.
This exhibition, the first to focus on the Choirbook, examined the manuscript’s material and historical context at 16th-century Eton in the College Chapel. It explored the development of Renaissance sacred music in this country as traced through the Choirbook’s pages and other rare examples, including fragments loaned from All Souls College, Oxford and Westminster Abbey.
Curated by Professor Magnus Williamson (Newcastle University) and Dr Lucy Gwynn, Deputy Librarian with Rachel Bond, College Librarian, Eton College.