In 1578, Christophe Plantin’s press produced its first musical work – and what a work it was! This massive volume – 55 by 40 cm – was big enough for all the singers in a choir. It contains the music for eight Mass settings: four of them for five voices, and two each for six and seven voices.
Georges de la Hèle
The Antwerp-born composer Georges de la Hèle (1547-1586), under whose name the work appears, worked mainly for the Habsburgs in Spain and the Netherlands. This work is his main surviving achievement: the rest was lost in a fire in Madrid in 1734. The musical type was made by the Ghent craftsman Hendrik van den Keere, with whom Plantin often collaborated. This work is typical of the beautiful typography of Christophe Plantin’s press.
This is the only copy in Flanders of this work. The paper that was used was originally intended for a different purpose: Philip II himself had it made for a musical work that was never printed. To be sure of covering the cost, Plantin asked De la Hèle to buy forty copies himself at a discounted price. However, the work sold better than expected...