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Grassineau, Musical Dictionary (1740): The Demand for Dictionaries

By Abby Bilson and Katie Malquest

Growing Demand for Music Dictionaries

Growing Demand for Music Dictionaries

While there had been no English music dictionary of significance up to the publication of Grassineau’s dictionary, there had been several music dictionaries published internationally (for example, Johannes Tinctoris had compiled lists of musical terms before), but the eighteenth century was the beginning of the demand for musical dictionaries in a modern sense. In 1703, Sébastien de Brossard published Dictionnaire de Musique in Prague. This lexicon was the foundation of many music dictionary publications which would follow, including James Grassineau’s English dictionary, A Musical Dictionary.

More than simply being inspired by Brossard’s Dictionnaire de Musique, Grassineau’s dictionary is a partial translation of the Czech dictionary. Grassineau did not literally translate Brossard's dictionary, but instead altered it slightly by adding and deleting terms and omitting sections. The relationship between Brossard’s Dictionnaire de Musique and Grassineau’s A Musical Dictionary demonstrates the manner in which musical information began to be shared on a global scale during the Enlightenment Period. The Riemenschneider Bach Institute houses a third edition copy of Brossard’s dictionary in addition to Grassineau’s and several other Enlightenment Period music dictionaries.