Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ravenscroft, Thomas

RAVENSCROFT, THOMAS (1592?–1635?), musician, was born about 1592. He was a chorister of St. Paul's Cathedral under Edward Piers, and he afterwards attended the music lectures at Gresham College. He graduated Mus. Bac. of Cambridge in 1607.

In 1609, in his infancy, as he subsequently apologised (Pref. to Discourse), Ravenscroft published ‘Pammelia, Musick's Miscellany.’ It is said to be the earliest collection of rounds, catches, and canons printed in England. A few numbers were Ravenscroft's own composition, and others were ancient; all were excellent in their musical science. Several examples from this miscellany were reprinted by Burney (History, iii. 347). A second impression of ‘Pammelia’ appeared in 1618. In the meantime a supplementary collection was published by Ravenscroft, ‘Deuteromelia, or the Second Part of Musick's Miscellany, or Melodious Musicke of Pleasant Roundelaies; K. H. mirth or Freemen's songs, and such Delightful Catches.’ It bore the motto ‘Qui canere potest canat,’ and contained catches generally for three voices, a version of ‘Three Blind Mice’ among them. In 1611 followed ‘Melismata, Musicall Phansies fitting the Court, Cittie, and Country Humours, to three, four, and five voyces. To all delightful except to the Spiteful; to none offensive except to the Pensive.’ The book was dedicated by Ravenscroft to his kinsmen Thomas and William Ravenscroft, esquires.

In 1613 Ravenscroft issued ‘Musalia,’ a collection of glees (cf. Musical World, 1840, ii. 139), and in the following year he brought out ‘A Briefe Discourse of the true (but neglected) use of charact'rising the Degrees by their Perfection, Imperfection, and Diminution in Measurable Musicke, against the common Practise and Custom of these Times.’ Much of the material of the ‘Discourse’ is found in a ‘Treatise of Musicke’ by Ravenscroft, probably autograph, in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 19758. His advocacy of a system which had only recently been discarded, and other strong opinions on matters of musical controversy, placed the author in opposition to Thomas Morley [q. v.], whose ‘Introduction’ was an accepted authority.

In 1621 appeared Ravenscroft's most famous publication, ‘The Whole Book of Psalms, with the Hymnes Evangellical and Songs Spirituall, composed into four parts by sundry Authors, to such several Tunes as have been and are usually sung in England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Italy, France, and the Netherlands, never as yet in one volume published.’ About one hundred and fifty psalm-tunes were thus supplied with treble, alto, and bass parts by the greater composers of the past and current periods, Ravenscroft contributing forty-eight settings. Certain melodies were for the first time named after cities said by local tradition to have given them birth. The collection by its great merit superseded all others, went through many editions, and, at last becoming scarce, was succeeded in popular favour by Playford's compilation under the same title. So recently as 1844 a reprint of Ravenscroft's ‘Psalms’ was published by Canon Havergal. Ravenscroft is said to have died in 1635.

In 1822 ‘Selections from the Works of Thomas Ravenscroft’ was issued to members of the Roxburghe Club. The words only are given in many cases. The musical notation, where supplied, was modernised by Bartleman, who died before completing the work.

[Hawkins's History, pp. 557, 567; Burney's History, iii. 57, 260, 347; Grove's Dictionary, iii. 78, iv. 762; Ravenscroft's Works; authorities cited.]

L. M. M.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.231
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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318 i 37 Ravenscroft, Thomas: before In 1614 insert In 1613 Ravenscroft issued 'Musalia,' a collection of glees (cf. Musical World, 1840, ii. 139).