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Singing the ‘Pope’s dregs’: the Liber Precum Publicarum of 1560 and its use

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Abstract

The passing of the Elizabethan Act of Uniformity in 1559 and the publication of the Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer later that year returned the language of public worship to English, but a Latin translation of that prayer book issued in 1560––the Liber precum publicarum––allowed certain scholastic institutions to continue using Latin liturgies. Seldom has this volume been discussed in detail, despite its important implications for composers connected to those institutions in permitting the continued composition of Latin-texted music for liturgical, rather than merely extra-liturgical or devotional, use. This article considers the background to the Liber precum publicarum, assesses its contents, and examines the extent to which it was acquired and used by the few institutions for which it was produced. It finds that the volume was apparently not acquired by those institutions, owing probably to the political and religious climates of Oxford and Cambridge in the 1560s. It therefore casts light on why little (or indeed any) Latin-texted polyphony composed for bona fide liturgical use survives from the reign of Elizabeth I.

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Journal of the Royal Musical Association

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0269-0403

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Routledge

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