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Grassineau, Musical Dictionary (1740): A Musical Dictionary

By Abby Bilson and Katie Malquest

A Musical Dictionary

A Musical Dictionary by James Grassineau was one of the first English music dictionaries of its kind ever published. A direct result of the Enlightenment Period, Grassineau's publication answered the call for educational musical resources. The copy in the Riemenschneider Bach Institute is a first edition, donated to the Institute by prominent musicologist Hans Theodore David.

A Musical Dictionary by James Grassineau

Hidden within the fortified walls of the glorious Riemenschneider Bach Institute in humble Berea, Ohio, rests a rare and magnificent piece of history: a first edition copy of A Musical Dictionary by James Grassineau. The handwritten notes within the pages of the dictionary add to its storied past and historical significance, and it is a privilege for the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory to be able to hold such an artifact. Through analysis of the various points of interest in regards to this item, much can be learned about the period of history during which it was written and the significance it had in the world of music academia.

Grassineau’s A Musical Dictionary was the first English music dictionary of merit to be written. It was published at the beginning of the Enlightenment Period, which championed intellectualism and the sovereignty of reason. As with every dictionary published, Grassineau’s dictionary presents the information through the most celebrated and popular form of philosophy at the time. As a result, this dictionary presents the musical concepts through the lens of mathematical and scientific classification, aligning with the popular way of thinking of the eighteenth century: the scientific method.

The First English Music Dictionary