The Case of the Purloined Letter Tablature: The Seventeenth-Century Guitar Books of Foriano Pico and Pietro Millioni

This item appeared in The Journal of Seventeenth Century Music (

By Gary Boye

. Introduction

1.1 Seventeenth-century sources for the guitar use a unique chordal shorthand called alfabeto notation, first appearing in 1606 in Girolamo Montesardo’s Nuova inventione d’intavolatura. Montesardo seems consciously aware of inventing a new system of notation, and the title continues that one can learn “without numbers or notes” (i.e., without lute tablature or standard musical notation).(1) He was the first to give an alfabeto chart in which letters from A to Z, in addition to several symbols, were assigned finger patterns on the instrument that led to varying harmonies, normally major or minor chords. This ingenious system allowed the performer to play in any key or with a guitar tuned to any pitch, as long as the interval pattern of tuned strings (commonly but not always given as A-d-g-b-e’) remained the same. With this skeletal framework, one could strum chords to a wide variety of songs or dances, filling out the accompaniment in an improvisatory manner according to the player’s ability. It proved enormously popular: there are over sixty printed sources for guitar in alfabeto notation from the seventeenth century, with well over twice that number of existing manuscripts.(2)Many vocal works were also given alfabeto accompaniment, much as sheet music for many twentieth-centry popular songs carries chord symbols for guitar. Finally, there is also a substantial body of more advanced music for guitar that combines alfabeto symbols and Italian lute tablature. Montesardo’s original chordal alphabet became, with a few alterations, the one used by most Italian guitarists throughout the century.

1.2 While Montesardo’s Nuova inventione can be called the first printed book for solo guitar with alfabeto notation, determining the second such book is more difficult. Giovanni Ambrosio Colonna’s Intavolatura di chitarra alla spagnuola (Milan: heirs of Giovanni Battista Colonna) and Benedetto Sanseverino’s Intavolatura facile…Opera terza (Milan: Filippo Lomazzo) both appeared in 1620, with the former book containing a preface dated 1619.(3) Another source with an incomplete title page, Foriano Pico’s Nuova scelta di sonate per la chitarra spagnola (Naples: Giovanni Francesco Paci) has been variously dated as either 1608 or 1628. The earliest modern reference to the book was by Johannes Wolf in 1919, giving a date of 1628.(4) Josef Zuth agreed with this dating in 1926.(5) The second edition of Robert Eitner’s Quellen-Lexikon gave 1608 for an exemplar of the book in the collection of Werner Wolffheim (1877–1930).(6) Peter Danner’s original list of guitar tablatures from 1972 gave 1628 with no publisher known, but changed this information to “Naples: 1608, Rome: 1609” the following year.(7) The first appearance in a Grove dictionary occurred in 1980; here the date was also given as 1608, with a reprint in 1609, following Danner. (8) The original listing in RISM (P 2311) gave 1608, but that was changed to 1628 in the Addenda/Corrigenda.(9) The latter date seems to have gained more currency by the late 1970s: Joseph Weidlich stated that 1628 is a more likely date for the book than 1608, based primarily on its style and contents.(10) Richard Hudson used “1628?” in his work (11) and I agreed in my dissertation.(12)

1.3 Dated as 1608, only two years after Montesardo’s original “invention,” this book and its contents have been given great historical importance as the second oldest alfabeto tablature. In addition, scholars such as Tyler who accept the date of 1608 credit Pico with the invention of shifted chords (alfabeto symbols with numbers for the higher positions of the fingerboard), the vertical dashes used to indicate upward or downward strums, and the first clear descriptions of right-hand strumming technique.(13) With this date, this book would also contain one of the first written examples of the tarantella, predating Athanasius Kircher’s Magnes, sive De arte magnetica (Rome: L. Grignani, 1641), and very early examples of many other genres such as the passacaglia, ciaccona, and canario. If Pico’s book is from 1628, it appeared along with many other printed and manuscript works in the 1620s as the alfabeto system became standardized and quite common; its historical importance is thus lessened, but Pico would still have a place among the early innovators of the guitar repertory. Additional confusion is created by the existence of another book with nearly identical contents to that by Pico: Nuova corona d’intavolatura di chitarra spagnola (Rome: heirs of Mancini, 1661) by Pietro Millioni.(14) Fortune, Tyler, and other scholars have dismissed Millioni’s book as blatant plagiarism, occurring as it does several decades after the 1608/1628 dating of Pico’s tablature. But since both surviving exemplars of the Pico book are incomplete, the dates of 1608 and 1628 cannot be verified and we must carefully look at the existing evidence to find other ways of securing a date for the work and discovering Foriano Pico’s place in the history of the guitar.

2. The Exemplar of Pico’s Book in Naples

2.1 Only two exemplars of Pico’s tablature have survived: one at I-Nn and one at F-Pn.(15) Both of these exemplars are incomplete, as the last line of text on the title page has worn away and only the top half remains. The Naples exemplar is the more complete of the two  .

The thin original page has been backed with a firmer material at some time after the bottom edge frayed away. Based on context and the varying amounts of surviving text, all but the third number (i.e., the decade) of the date can be reconstructed: In Napoli, Nella Stamperia di Giovan. Francesco Paci 16[?]8 Con licenza de’ Superiori. This gives us the publication place, Naples, as well as the publisher, Giovanni Francesco Paci, along with the official notice of publication approval. A close look at the date reveals that the third digit has a curved top, slightly thicker on its right side than its left .



Based on the font used in the book for page numbering and letter chords—which is the same as that used in the lowest line of the title page—the third digit could be any of five numbers with similar rounded tops: 0, 2, 3, 8, or 9. This gives a date range of 1608 at the earliest to 1698 at the latest. However, other instances of the number 8 in the book show that it is consistently a taller figure, roughly equal to a capital letter, and our mystery number is clearly too small for this, especially in comparison to the 8 directly next to it. This leaves 1608, 1628, 1638, or 1698 as possibilities.

2.2 The binding of the Naples exemplar clearly shows a date of 1628 .



This brown Moroccan binding fits the description of an exemplar of Pico’s book in a 1928 auction catalogue of the collector Werner Wolffheim (1877–1930).(16) It is listed as number 1206 in the catalogue, and the same number is written in pencil on the first blank page of the Naples exemplar. The Biblioteca Nazionale purchased the book at one of the large auctions in 1928, no doubt because of the Neapolitan imprint, and the Wolffheim/Berlin exemplar returned to its city of origin.(17)Thus the exemplar that Wolf and others following him list in Berlin, is now at the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples.(18) This connection has eluded other scholars who insist on the existence of a (complete) Berlin exemplar of Pico’s tablature.(19)

2.3 The binding of the Naples exemplar is not original to the book. Additional blank pages of a different paper have been added before and after the original text. These pages, along with the binding itself, do not show the wear at the bottom where the date has been lost. Like many seventeenth-century guitar tablatures, especially those of such a small size (16 x 10 cm.), the original book would have been unbound, with the title page serving also as a cover. Since additional wear to the title page is unlikely after the leather binding was added, we can assume that the binders had as much of the page available to them as is now visible and guessed at the date of 1628 for the new cover. Therefore, what appears to be concrete evidence of a publication date of 1628 turns out to be no more valid than the dates given the book in early twentieth-century bibliographies.

3. The Exemplar of Pico’s Book in Paris

3.1 The other exemplar of Pico’s book, at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Département de la Musique in Paris, has also been bound in a hard cover with added pages in the front and back, but without any date added to it. Surprisingly, the original title page of this exemplar lacks not only the bottom half of the last line of text, as in the Naples exemplar, but the section where the place of publication would have been has been cut out and is missing entirely. In addition, the crucial date is as incomplete as that in the Naples exemplar. Both books were apparently prone to the same type of fraying at the bottom of the title page before they were eventually bound by later collectors. When the Paris exemplar was used for a facsimile edition, the publisher filled in the last line of text by hand, using a date of 1608.(20) Close examination of the facsimile reveals the rather sloppy hand lettering at the bottom of the cover page. The lack of a publication place apparently led Danner and Fortune to assign it as Rome, sometimes as a second edition published in Rome in 1609,(21) but the exemplar seems otherwise identical to that held in Naples and there is no evidence of either a Roman publication or a last digit as 9 for this exemplar. We are surely dealing with the same edition of the book held at the Naples library, published by Paci in Naples in 16[?]8. Thus of the four dates possible for the book—1608, 1628, 1638, and 1698—two have been favored up to this point: the date of 1628 for the binder of the Wolffheim/Naples exemplar and 1608 for the facsimile publishers and scholars such as Danner, Fortune, and Tyler in the twentieth century. None of this information stems from anyone working from a complete original title page, which was incomplete in both surviving exemplars of the book when bibliographic information began to be compiled about it in the early twentieth century.

4. San Biase Maggiore

4.1 The title page gives us one further bit of information: we read in the lower left-hand corner, “Si vendono alla moderna Stamperia del Paci alla scesa di S. Biase Magg.” Thus, Pico’s book was available at Paci’s “new” printing house on the way down to the church of San Biase Maggiore. Biase is an old form of Biagio (St. Blase), and the church still exists under the name San Biagio ai Librai—since it was historically connected with local printers and booksellers (librai). This situates our guitar tablature in the booksellers’ district of Naples, which was indeed where Giovanni Francesco Paci had a printing shop in the seventeenth century. Another possible source of dating for the Pico tablature thus arises: it must have been made after Paci’s printing press began operation near San Biagio (Biase) Maggiore. The dating of this church is surprisingly precise: although the relics of San Biagio had existed in Naples for many years before the seventeenth century, housed in a chapel in the church of San Gennaro, a “major” church dedicated to the saint and named after him was not erected until 1631 by the Cardinal Buoncompagno.(22) By the late seventeenth century, the area had been populated by the shops of book printers and sellers, and the church was also referred to as San Biagio ai Librai.  In short, there is no historical evidence that a church by the name of San Biase (or Biagio) Maggiore existed in Naples in either 1608 or 1628.

5. Giovanni Francesco Paci: Neapolitan Printer

5.1 Another source for dating the Pico book is information about the location and operation of a printing press under the name of Giovanni Francesco Paci during this time period. Book printing in the seventeenth century involved an extensive amount of capital and training and one would expect to find numerous other books by the same publisher—musical or not—during the time period in question. Indeed, we find many books from the Neapolitan presses of Paci, but only beginning in 1659.(23) Modern cataloging records of surviving books shows G.F. or Gio. Francesco Paci printing at least seven books in the 1660s, nine in the 1670s, six in the 1680s, and six in the 1690s. Interestingly, the form of the name as it appears in the Pico book, “Giovan. Francesco Paci,” does not occur until 1688.(24) It also appears in three more sources, printed in 1695, 1696–1700, and 1703.(25) The latter book, Memorie della vita, miracoli, e culto di San Gianuario, originally appeared under the imprint of Ottavio Beltrano in 1633 and was later reprinted by the Paci press in 1681 and 1703.(26) As late as 1737, the name Gio. Francesco Paci appears in a Neapolitan imprint, as well as in later eighteenth-century books, so the Paci family had clearly established itself in the printing business. One assumes we are either dealing with sons or grandsons of the original Giovanni Francesco or else a publishing house that kept the name of its founder. No other music appears to have been printed by the Paci press in Naples, however, although there were other printers with a similar name who published music elsewhere in Italy. (27)

5.2 Another book published definitively in 1698 at the “Stamperia del Paci” bears striking similarities to the book attributed to Pico. It is a book of poetry by Carlo Sernicola.(28) Comparison of the fonts on the title page, shows what a statement of responsibility and publication date of 1698 would have looked like coming from the Paci press .

The font used is identical to that of the Pico book; note especially the differences in the height of the numbers “9” and “8” .

Compare this with what is left of the Naples exemplar of the Pico book, here realigned with the publication approval notice placed below the imprint .

Aside from spelling the word “Paci” in capitals and the miniscule variations expected in individual letters from a block of type, this line from Sernicola’s text could convincingly fill in the missing portions of the Pico book.

5.3 We must therefore seriously consider a date of 1698 for Pico’s Nuova scelta. Certainly the actual contents, as will be shown, may have originated long before this; the question is whether such contents would still have been viable for a publisher in the late seventeenth century.(29) From other surviving and clearly dated guitar books, we can see that they were. As late as 1737, in Millioni and Monte’s final reprint of Vero e facil modo, we find two pavaniglie, two spagnolette, a Ballo del Gran Duca (the Aria di Firenze), a ruggiero and ten various dances (balletti). The Pico book is much larger, but also contains these genres (five pavaniglie, one spagnoletta, three Arie di Firenze, one ruggiero, and three dances (balli), in addition to songs, passacagli, ciaccone, galliarde, etc. Another guitar book from exactly this time period is even closer to the Pico book in its contents: Antonino di Micheli’s La Nuova chitarra (Palermo: Pietro Coppula, 1698), which contains many of the same genres as the Pico book, including the Aria di Firenze, bergamasca, canario, ciaccona, folia, galliarda, passacaglia, pavaniglia, ruggiero, spagnoletta, tarantella, and the Villan di Spagna. Some of these genres go well back into the sixteenth century and one wonders why Micheli’s audience would have purchased a book with such old-fashioned music.

5.4 The answer lies in part with the pedagogical intent of these books and also with the true origins of the music in Pico’s book. All of the guitar books discussed thus far contain the most basic instructions for amateurs approaching the instrument, from tuning to forming chords and reading tablature. While stylized late seventeenth-century dances—those associated with the French suite especially—would have been more current in the solo music of the day (for the guitar as well as the lute and harpsichord), they lacked the harmonic formulae of the early guitar repertory that were so useful for beginners. One learned the various passacagli, for example, on all of the letters of the alfabeto notation in a similar way to how modern guitarists learn I–IV–V progressions in various keys. A guitarist could certainly improve technically and learn the basics of the instrument, even if much of the repertory that he/she was learning would have been too outmoded to actually use in a music-making situation. For the publisher, this also meant that any of the early guitar books could be reprinted and sold as basic tutors and apparently meet with a reasonably agreeable public response. In addition, the simple alfabeto notation lent itself to printing with moveable type, whereas more complex guitar music using alfabeto and Italian tablature was more frequently engraved. One final comment on the Pico book is necessary, even with the new date of 1698 assigned to it: the guitarist depicted on the title page (figure 1) has placed his right foot on a small footstool. This is one of the earliest images showing a guitarist using such a footstool.


6. Pietro Millioni

6.1 This brings our discussion to the second guitarist of importance involving the book of Foriano Pico: his alleged plagiarist, Pietro Millioni. Unlike Pico, who is known only for a single work, Millioni was the most prolific of all of the alfabeto tablature composers. Even his earliest surviving work is a reprint: Quarta impressione del primo, secondo, et terzo libro d’intavolatura (Rome: Guglielmo Facciotti, 1627) indicates the fourth printing (quarta impressione) of a book which no doubt originally appeared individually as three separate works. The fourth book in this series appeared in the same year as Seconda impressione del quarto libro d’intavolatura di chitarra spagnola (Rome: Guglielmo Facciotti, 1627), followed by the fifth, Prima impressione del quinto libro d’intavolatura di chitarra spagnola (Rome: Guglielmo Facciotti, 1627). We are dealing with a second printing of the former book, while the latter appears for the first time. Clearly, Millioni’s first publications predate 1627 by a number of years. Millioni also brought out guitar books in 1631, two in 1635, 1636, and 1661, as well as co-authoring Vero e facil modo with Ludovico Monte in 1637. The Millioni/Monte book went through an amazing number of reprints before appearing for the last time in 1737.

6.2 If one assumes at least three, now lost, imprints of Millioni’s 1627 Quarta impressione del primo, secondo, et terzo libro d’intavolatura, as well as one lost version of the Seconda impressione del quarto libro d’intavolatura di chitarra spagnola, the total number of guitar tablatures by Millioni alone totals twelve, most appearing in the 1620s. Add the Monte collaboration and the total reaches twenty-one. No other composer appears in that many guitar books of any style from this period. And Millioni was not just prolific; the three books of 1627 are all models of early guitar performance, with clear (for the day) pedagogical instructions and the best examples of the use of right-hand ornamentation to be found in any of the alfabeto tablatures, as well as a good bit of experimentation with notation, tuning, and technique. The later books from the 1630s are increasingly poorly printed and difficult to realize, but are still interesting in their own right. Only with the Millioni/Monte books does one wonder if Millioni’s name is being used without his involvement; the notation is often inaccurate and the pieces difficult or unidiomatic to the instrument. Of most immediate concern here is his Nuova corona d’intavolatura di chitarra spagnola (Rome: heirs of Mancini, 1661), a book with contents nearly identical to those of the Pico book.

7. Millioni 1661

7.1 Appearing in 1661, probably after Millioni’s death, this book’s title page contains the phrase, “newly printed according to the true original of Pietro Millioni.”(30) No other guitar tablature of the period contains a similar phrase about a book being printed from the “true original.” Although Danner, Tyler, and others—apparently examining only the contents page—have assumed that the Millioni and Pico books are identical except for their title pages, this is untrue.(31) There are four anomalous pieces found in the Pico book that are not in the Millioni: the passacagli (pp. 13 and 15) and the two romanelle (p. 32). On page 15, Millioni has five lines, with extra space at the bottom of the page.

Pico adds an extra line to the bottom of this page for the passacaglia .

On page 32, Millioni provides a part title announcing the end of the “Sonate ordinarie” and the beginning of the more advanced pieces .

In the most radical departure from the Millioni tablature, the Pico book substitutes two pieces in an otherwise rare genre for the guitar, the romanella .

Interestingly, none of the four pieces new to the Pico book is listed in either book’s index (pp. 55–6), which is otherwise complete. In addition, the passacagli and one of the romanelle are the only pieces in the work referred to as being “for” a particular alfabeto chord in their titles (the former are “Per E” or in D minor and the romanella “per X” or in B minor). The romanella also carries the phrase that it is “non più stampata” (no longer printed).

7.2 Another difference between the two books can be discovered by anyone taking Baroque guitar in hand and reading the original tablatures: the Millioni book can be realized quite easily, the Pico is so poorly printed that in places it is nearly impossible to play from, primarily due to poor alignment of the vertical strokes indicating chord strums. The origins of this problem eminate from Paci’s decision to print the alfabeto letter symbols on the horizontal line rather than above the level of the upstrokes; see Millioni’s tablature, 


and Pico’s tablature.


The standard strum pattern for the ciaccona is down-down-up in triple meter, clearly evident in Millioni but muddled in Pico. It is the placement of the alfabeto letters on the line that, in part, pushes the stroke symbols too far to the right; see especially the second “B” or C major chord, where the pattern of down-up-down-down has been shifted to the right as the letter B was moved onto the line. Note that the exact horizontal spacing of the strokes is haphazard as in all seventeenth-century alfabeto tablatures and should not be misread as having any type of rhythmic or metric meaning; these were simple chord progressions, beginning on beat two of a consistent one-to-the-beat pattern in triple meter. There are many other occurrences of poor stroke alignment in Pico, while Millioni remains easier to realize.

7.3 While Tyler theorizes that Millioni has “corrected” the poor stroke alignment in the “earlier” Pico book (and also apparently omitted the only four pieces that were not included in the table of contents to the book),(32) it seems far more likely the less accurate of the two books is the actual plagiarism. Further, there is no evidence, other than this tablature, that a guitarist named Foriano Pico even existed in the seventeenth century; perhaps we should refer to the book and its contents as originating with Paci or an unknown editor. If we accept the 1698 date for the Pico book, it fits neatly into place as a poorly printed edition, substituting two short passacagli where the original had a blank line and two romanelle where the original had a separate part title—and, of course, substituting the name of the original composer for a new and otherwise unknown one. In the process, the printer disrupted the stroke alignment of the original to the point that the rhythm is unrealizable without reference to Millioni’s work.

7.4 Since the 1661 edition of the Millioni book is not the first edition of the work (“after the true original”), we are left wondering what edition was pirated in 1698. Given the similarities between the two books, Millioni’s edition of 1661 could quite easily have served as the model for the Pico edition. The line breaks in both books are almost identical (see figure 7 and figure 8 ), so it seems likely that Paci worked from an exemplar of Millioni 1661. Clearly Mancini, the printer of Millioni’s work, took greater care than Paci did; one often finds that successive republications of alfabeto guitar tablatures in the seventeenth century are less accurate than the initial prints. Typesetting from an original manuscript source would have been far more demanding than typesetting from an existing printed book. Perhaps, for the latter process, less experienced and less musically trained workers were used. Whatever the reasons, republications such as the post-1644 Millioni/Monte books—or, as is now evident, Pico’s work—often suffer from poor typesetting in general and poor horizontal stroke alignment in particular.

7.5 There still remains the question as to what exactly was being printed under the name of Pietro Millioni in 1661. The works in this book appear to be unique and not just a collection of previous works with some new material added, as are most of his books from the 1630s. A few pieces are taken directly from earlier tablatures: the “Villan de Spagna” (p. 16) is from Millioni 1627a (p. 54) and the Romanesca (p. 19) is from Millioni 1631 (p. 34). Other works are closely related but contain minor variants, such as the Gagliarda in A major (p. 11), which is very similar to one in Millioni 1627a (p. 17), or the “Aria di Fiorenza molto curiosa” (p. 43) and a similar work in Millioni 1627c (p. 50). The first two songs in the book, which are given with text and alfabeto chords only, “Occhietti amati” and “Non più morte cor mio” (pp. 58 and 59), are also identical to those in Millioni’s Prima scielta di villanelle accomodate con l’intavolatura per cantare sopra la chitarra spagnola (Rome: Guglielmo Facciotti, 1627). But the bulk of the pieces in Millioni 1661 seem to be either new or, more likely in light of the statement about the work being printed from the “true original,” from a pre-existing source that has since been lost.

7.6 In general, Millioni preferred to incorporate new and old material in his guitar tablatures. Although his works from the 1630s are usually titled as republications, they actually display this mixture of the new and old. For example, his Corona del primo, secondo, e terzo libro d’intavolatura di chitarra spagnola (Rome: Guglielmo Facciotti, 1631) contains seventy-one pieces, twenty-five from Millioni 1627a, two from Millioni 1627b, three from Millioni 1627c and forty-one new to this book. Since all of these books were printed from moveable type, rather than engraved plates as in some later guitar books, each edition representing entirely new type setting and an entirely new opportunity to make changes (or introduce errors) in the musical contents. Close inspection of these later books by Millioni reveals many new works hitherto ignored by bibliographers who assume that their contents merely reprint earlier works, as well as older works transposed to different tonalities or otherwise varied. In short, the edition histories of these works are much more complex than is generally recognized in the guitar literature (33)

8. Foriano Pico and Pietro Millioni: A Reappraisal

8.1 How does the redating of Foriano Pico’s work affect the commonly accepted chronology of seventeenth-century guitar history? Certainly, the dismissal of Pietro Millioni as a blatant plagiarist and minor figure needs to be ended. (34) The sheer number of his works, surviving and lost, indicate that he was enormously successful and influential as a guitar composer, with the clearest explanations for right-hand ornamental strums, based on his works from 1627. It is also apparent that it took the publishing world a bit longer than two years—if the date of 1608 had been verified for Pico’s book—to respond to Montesardo’s initial invention of alfabeto notation in 1606; and G.A. Colonna’s early works in the 1620s, along with those of Sanseverino and Carlo Milanuzzi, should be regarded as the followers of this tradition. Lost works by Millioni might also fill this gap. Vertical dashes indicating strokes and stroke direction are found in Colonna’s first book, and Sanseverino’s book contains not only alfabeto symbols and stroke signs, but meter signs, rhythm signs, and even barlines as well, making it one of the most thoroughly notated of any of the guitar books and a convincing second step in the evolution of the notation.(35) Later works tend to be less and less carefully notated—apparently assuming a basic familiarity with the music beforehand—and often contain only chord symbols and stroke signs, as in both the works under discussion.

8.2 In defense of Pico and/or Paci: theirs was certainly not the only act of plagiarism in the guitar literature of the period. The 1644 edition of Millioni and Monte’s Vero e facil modo (RISM, series 6/2: 585) contains an unattributed addendum (pp. 33–48) of pieces taken directly from Milanuzzi 1623 (RISM M 2744, pp. 45–8 and 52–4) in the same order. There is also another book nearly identical to the Millioni/Pico work under the name of Tomasso Marchetti.(36) Plagiarism or piracy may be a bit too strong a term for such use of pre-existing material in an era when copyrights were non-existent and much of the music consisted of short chordal formulae. Certainly one would not accuse someone of “plagiarizing” a four-measure passacaglia with a straight-forward I–IV–V–I progression. Yet, the wholesale transferal of the contents of one book into that of another at a different time and place has strong implications for the correct chronological history of the guitar literature.

9. Summary

9.1 The evidence against an early dating for the Pico book is the following: little or nothing is known about a guitarist named Foriano Pico, while Pietro Millioni was extremely active; the church near which one could buy Pico’s book did not exist before 1631, and the printer was not active until the 1650s; and the four works included in Pico and not in Millioni 1661 are not in either book’s table of contents and are obviously anomalous later additions. In addition, Pico’s book is nearly impossible to read without reference to the more reliable work by Millioni; rather than theorizing that Millioni “corrected” Pico’s notation, it appears far more likely that errors were introduced in the Pico book based on poor typesetting of Millioni’s original. Aside from the omission of the true author’s name, the Pico book occurs thirty-seven years afterwards, long enough for all of the original exemplars of Millioni’s book to have been purchased; thus Paci was making available a common guitar tutor that would no longer have been on the shelves.


I extend my thanks especially to Doug James, Ray Sinclair, Marianne Adams, and Pasquale Rucco, as well as the staff of the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III, for their assistance in securing digital photos of the Naples exemplar of Pico’s book. I would also like to thank Monica Hall for calling my attention to the Wolffheim catalog. Professor Caroline Bruzelius of Duke University provided crucial assistance in finding information about San Biagio Maggiore. Finally, my thanks to librarian Laurie Klein of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University for her assistance in securing a digital copy of the title page of this book.


* Gary R. Boye ( is the music librarian for the Erneston Music Library at Appalachian State University. In 1991–2 he received a Fulbright Scholarship for research in Italy in order to write Giovanni Battista Granata and the Development of Printed Music for the Guitar in Seventeenth-Century Italy (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1995). Much of the information in this article originated in that research trip.

1 Répertoire international des sources musicales (RISM), Einzeldrucke vor 1800 (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1971–99), M 3437:

Sopra la Chitarra Spagniuola,
Senza Numeri, e Note;
Per mezzo della quale da se stesso ogn’uno
senza Maestro potrà imparare.
IN FIRENZE, Appresso Christofano Marescotti. MDCVI.

2 Lists of guitar tablatures can be found in the following sources: Peter Danner, “Bibliography of Guitar Tablatures, 1546–1764,” Journal of the Lute Society of America 5 (1972): 40–51 and “An Update to the Bibliography of Guitar Tablatures,” ibid. 6 (1973): 33–36; James Tyler, The Early Guitar: a History and Handbook (London: Oxford University Press, 1980); and James Tyler, The Guitar and Its Music: From the Renaissance to the Classical Era (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). Suggested corrections to these lists based on my own research can be found on my web page.

3 Listed in RISM as C 3454 and S 886 respectively.

4 Johannes Wolf, Handbuch der Notationskunde II. Teil (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1919): 180.

5 Josef Zuth, Handbuch der Laute und Gitarre (Vienna: Anton Goll, 1926): 219.

6 Robert Eitner, Biographisch-Bibliographisches Quellen-Lexikon (Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1960), 2:166. The first edition (Leipzig: Breitkopf and Härtel, 1898–1904) does not contain any mention of Pico.

7 Peter Danner, “Bibliography,” 47 and “Update,” 36.

8 Nigel Fortune, New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London: Macmillan, 1980), s.v. “Pico, Foriano.”

9 RISM 6:496 (1976), 13:264 (1998).

10 Joseph Weidlich, “Battuto Performance Practice in Early Italian Guitar Music (1606–1637),” Journal of the Lute Society of America 11 (1978): 65.

11 Richard Hudson, The Folia, the Saraband, the Passacaglia, and the Chaconne (Neuhausen-Stuttgart: American Institute of Musicology, 1982), xxxi; Hudson introduced an incorrect place of publication, Venice, without further explanation.

12 Gary R. Boye, Giovanni Battista Granata and the Development of Printed Guitar Music in Seventeenth-Century Italy, (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1995), 192ff.

13 Tyler, The Guitar and Its Music, 55.

14 The only surviving exemplar of this book (RISM M 2841) is in I-Bc.

15 RISM P 2311. I was able to study both in 1992.

16Versteigerung der Musikbibliothek des Herrn D. Werner Wolfheim (Berlin: Breslauer & Liepmannssohn, 1928), 1:216–7.

17 The library confirms that their exemplar is from the Wolffheim auction and was purchased in the June 1928 auction.

18 Wolf, 211.

19 Tyler, The Guitar and Its Music, 55, maintains that the date of 1608 is “clearly printed on the title pages of two of the three surviving exemplars.” This is in error on two accounts: no third surviving exemplar exists and both of the other exemplars have incomplete dates. He also mistakenly reports yet another exemplar at I-Bc, where I studied for nearly a year; no such exemplar exists.

20 Nuova scelta di sonate per la chitarra spagnola (Geneva: Minkoff, 1981).

21 Fortune, New Grove, 14:734; Danner, “Update,” 36.

22 Gennaro Aspreno Galante, Guida sacra della città di Napoli (Naples: Società Editrice Napoletana, 1985), 130.

23 Pars secunda in qua de sacri regii consilii origine, auctoritate, praeeminentia, eiusque omnibus praesidibus, viceprotonotarijs, regijsque consiliarijs (Naples: Io. Francisci Pacii, 1659).

24 Francesco Balzano, L’antica Ercolano overo la torre del Greco (Naples: Giovan-Francesco Paci, 1688).

25 Orazione panegirica in commendazion delle gloriose vergini e martiri Archealaa, Tecla, e Susanna i miraculosissimi corpi (Naples: Giovan Francesco Paci, 1695); Mastelloni, Andrea, Sermoni ascetici (Naples: Giovan-Francesco Paci, 1696–1700); and Memorie della vita, miracoli, e culto di San Gianuario martire vescouo di Beneunto … terza impressione (Naples: Giovan Francesco Paci, 1703). The title page of the latter states: “In Napoli per Ottavio Beltrano, 1633 … E di nuovo nella stamperia di Giovan Francesco Paci, 1703.”

26 Camillo Tutini, Memorie della vita, miracoli, e cvlto di San Gianvario martire … seconda impressione. (Naples: per Gio. Francesco Paci, 1681). The title page states: “Per Ottavio Beltrano 1633, e di nuovo per Gio: Francesco paci 1681.”

27 Giovanni Battista Abatessa’s Intessitura di varii fiori overo Intavolatura di chitarra alla spagnola was published in Rome by “Paci” in 1652 (RISM A 6); there were also several music books printed by Antonio Pace in Rome in the early seventeenth century. None of these publishers seems to be connected to the Neapolitan Paci press.

28 Poesie varie del reverendo padre maestro fra Carlo Sernicola (Naples: Stamperia del Paci, 1698).

29 Tyler’s assertion that the contents of this book indicate a date of 1608 ignores the large number of reprints in the guitar repertory throughout the seventeenth century and into the eighteenth; if anything, the musical style and notation of the book argue against a date that early, as there are no other similar sources until the 1620s.

30 “Novamente ristampato secondo il vero originale di Pietro Millioni.”

31 For further discussion on the differences between the two books, see Boye, Granata, 192ff.

32 Tyler, The Guitar and Its Music, 56.

33 For example, Tyler, The Guitar and Its Music, 87, states incorrectly that Millioni’s prints from 1635 and 1636 are later editions of Corona del primo, secondo, e terzo libro d’intavolatura (Rome: Facciotti, 1631). In actuality, the Corona del primo, secondo, e terzo libro d’intavolatura di chitarra spagnola (Rome and Turin: Manzolino and Roveda, 1635) contains 9 new passacagli—completing all 24 major and minor keys—and 5 new pieces at the end of the book. The Corona del primo, secondo, e terzo libro d’intavolatura di chitarra spagnola (Milan: Ghidolfi, Cerri, and Ferrardi, 1636) is incomplete in the only surviving exemplar (F-Pn), but appears to be a reprint of the 1635 edition, not the one from 1631. There is another book from 1635, [Quart]o libro d’in[tav]olatura di chitarra spagnola di Pietro Millioni … novamente ristampato dal medesimo Millioni con l’accrescimento di molte Sonate curiose (Rome: Paolo Masotti, 1635), which reproduces material from Millioni’s book of the same title from 1627 with additional material.

34 Danner, “Update,” 36 and the New Grove entry by Fortune 1980 both state that Millioni plagiarized Pico; Tyler, The Guitar and Its Music, 55–6, goes the farthest in emphasizing Pico’s “innovations” and dismissing Millioni as a plagiarist.

35 Colonna’s earliest book also contains the earliest printed use of shifted chords, such as the “G3” chord, in which the “G” or F major fingering is shifted to the third fret for a G major chord.

36 Listed incorrectly with RISM M 487 (I-Rsc), but actually a different work. The title page is almost entirely missing; within the text, there are two part titles that identify the author and describe the contents:
p. 32:

Fine delle Sonate ordinarie, e principio delle pas-
seggiate, dove sono molte Ariette Ve-
netiane, bizzarre da sonare,

p. 49:

Raccolte da Varii Virtuosì, intavolate
con lettere della Chitarra

Note that the first part title also occurs in the Millioni 1661 book and that Marchetti, unlike Pico, has not added any music.
This item appeared in The Journal of Seventeenth Century Music (
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