A Paper Trail: Missa Jouyssance vous donneray, Uncertain Identity, and the National Institutes of Health's "Bathtub Collection"

Robertson, Emily

"In a storeroom of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Library of Medicine's History of Medicine Division are seven gray boxes full of envelopes of yellowed paper scraps. These fragments constitute the little-known 'Bathtub Collection.' ... The hundreds of tiny pieces of paper span almost eight centuries, eight languages, and countless sources, both print and manuscript. Their contents include pages from the Vulgate Bible, personal letters, pamphlets, playing cards, announcements, and music. At present, the fragments are catalogued in file folders according to the bookbinding from which they came.
Little research has been done on the "Bathtub Collection.' After examining the bindings, Schullian wrote a paper chronicling their contents that was read at the 1953 meeting of the Bibliographical Society of America and subsequently published. In 1997, Dr. Walton Schalick III submitted a similar article to the American Historical Association suggesting that more work be done on this remarkable collection, both in preservation and research. In response to Schalick's article, the NIH hired a preservation intern, Sandra Provenzano, for four months to re-package the fragments in more archive friendly envelopes and boxes (Waring 2002).
Carol Clausen, current curator at the NLM, then wrote a detailed report focusing on four manuscript pages of music taken from the binding of Giovanni Andrea della Croce's Chirurgiae Ioannis Andreae a Cruce, Veneti medici libri septem (henceforth Chirurgiae), published in Venice in 1573 (Clausen 2004). The four leaves of manuscript staff paper contain Latin-texted music from Franco-Flemish Masses and motets. These liturgical compositions were usually written for four to six voices overall, but they often included duo or trio sections. The manuscript contains only these bicinia, or sections of music for two voices. Each sheet of manuscript paper is divided in half horizontally, with the music facing the top of the page on one half and the bottom on the other, indicating that the pages were intended to be cut and bound as a partbook. Over the centuries, the paper has been marked, cut, torn, and chewed. Most of the surviving notation is still legible, but large pieces are missing from the pages. A roughly two-inch square was neatly cut out of the center of the last sheet of staff paper, on which no music was copied."--pages 63-64

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Columbia University
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June 2, 2014