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The Dancing Book of Margaret of Austria
Enchanting golden calligraphy on black parchment
Brüssel, Bibliothèque Royale Albert I., Ms. 9085, Flanders, around 1470

CODICES SELECTI, Vol. LXXXVII

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Further Pictures

 

The Booklet of the Dance was conceived around 1470 as an aid for dancers doing the ”Basses Danses” so popular in Europe.

Music in silver and gold

After an impressive page showing several coats of arms, the Booklet commences with a brief theoretical section complete with 59 different dances. Each page bears a golden ruling on which the titles of the dances, together with texts, musical notes and step designations, are written in both gold and silver. Almost all the pages of the manuscript are ornate with initials. Their vigorous interlace leads us to the assumption that the manuscript constitutes a masterpiece of courtly art. It is rightly assumed that this book once belonged to Mary of Burgundy, the wife of Emperor Maximilian I who left it to her daughter Margaret, the future General Governor of the Low Countries. The book later passed into the hands of King Philip II of Spain and remained in the Burgundian library of the Habsburg dynasty until it was transferred to the Bibliothèque Royale.

An extremely rare manuscript written on black vellum

The ”Basses Danses” owes its singularity not only to its musical contents and significance for the history of European culture, but also to its masterly execution of calligraphy in gold and silver and last but not least to its unusual writing material. The Booklet of the Dance of Margaret of Austria is one of only seven surviving manuscripts written on black tinted parchment. This jewel unique in the history of book production impressively displays the luxury of the Burgundian court.

   
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