The found manuscript


Codex Lerma is a choir book copied in Spain at the end of 16th century. It once belonged to the music library of the Collegiate church of Lerma, founded by Duke of Lerma in 1607. It is currently housed in the library of the University of Utrecht with the siglum Hs 3 L 16.

In the 1950s, while visiting the San Pedro de Lerma church in Spain, Maarten A.Vente, lecturer and curator at the Musicology department of the University of Utrecht, saw a large choirbook lying in the sacristy. Its keeper had little much use for the old and tattered codex, and Vente offered to buy it. It was officially purchased in 1959, thus being saved from further deterioration.

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The codex is important because it is a book copied specifically for the instruments, and not for the singers, as was the case with the vast majority of renasissance musical sources. More specifically, it is intended for an instrumental ensemble, although the type of instruments required is not specified.


It contains mostly transcriptions of Franco-Flemish chansons, some Italian madrigals, a bunch of motets, and a significant number of instrumental dances. By far the best represented composer is Orlande de Lassus (47); then Clemens non papa (18), Crequillon (11) and , Gombert (8), There are also some virtually unknown composers such as Giovan Leonardo Primavera and Jacopo Corfini.


Some of the pieces by Verdelot are ‘unica’. There are two pieces ascribed to Cristobal de Morales which are, if the attribution is correct, also ‘unica’.




When a new choir book was bought, it would often pass first through the hands of the instrumentalists (‘ministriles, in Spanish). They would select and copy into another book, the pieces they consider suitable for them. The Codex Lerma is one such book.


Although the ministriles had their own books and their own space to play, we now know that they sometimes played together with the singers, whether to substitute a voice or to reinforce it. Sometimes we even see in the capitular acts of cathedrals that some instrumentalists are specifically required "to play daily with the choir". This could be any instrument, but it was most often de bajón (dulcian