Banchieri's The Nobleness of the Ass

Scope and Content

Manuscript copy of The Noblenesse of the Asse. A worke rare, learned, and excellent , written by Adriano Banchieri and originally printed in London in 1595 by Thomas Creede and sold by William Barley. Under the signature of 'J[ohn] Payne Collier' on the front page is a note in his hand, 'For an intended reprint which was never made: not yet collated'. The manuscript copy is written in a nineteenth-century copper-plate hand and contains passim instructions for the printers. The title-page carries the picture of a garlanded ass copied from the woodcut of the original edition. This copy was not made by Collier.

Administrative / Biographical History

Adriano (Tomaso) Banchieri was an Italian composer, organist, and writer on music. In 1587 he joined the order of the Olivetans, and he subsequently lived and worked at its monasteries in Lucca, Siena, Bosco, Imola, Gubbo, Venice, and Verona. In 1609 he settled at San Michele in Bosco, where he lived for the rest of his life. He was named professor in 1613 and abbot in 1618. In 1615 in Bologna he founded the Accademia dei Floridi. He was an associate of Monteverdi, and his writings are important works in early Baroque music theory. He composed Masses, Psalm settings, motets, music for Offices, madrigals, and theatre works. These last were actually books of madrigals on related texts, using stock comic characters. They were often performed together as madrigal comedies, written to his own texts for the entertainment of Bologna's brilliant social circles. His writings in these fields were often issued under the pseudonym of Camillo Scaliggeri dalla Fratta, or, in the case of his popular La nobilità dell'asino (`The Nobility of the Ass') the improbable Attabalippa dal Peru. John Payne Collier (1789-1883) was an English critic, editor, and forger. The marginal notes and signatures supposedly discovered by him on original documents, especially those concerned with Shakespeare, were later exposed as having been forged by him while in the service of the Duke of Devonshire. His authentic work included A Bibliographical and Critical Account of the Rarest Books in the English Language (1865) and the reprinting of early English tracts.


Single item.

Access Information

Access to the items in the collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Access to archive collections may be restricted under the Freedom of Information Act. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Acquisition Information

Bought from the Abbots Bookshop Ltd. in 1958.

Other Finding Aids

Collection level description.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

9" x 7½". Written in a nineteenth century copper-plate hand. Illustrated.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Sarah Aitchison as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.


Adriano Banchieri, The Noblenesse of the Asse. A work rare, learned and excellent (Thomas Creede, London, 1595).