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date: 26 February 2020

Forbes, Johnlocked

  • David Johnson
  • , revised by Kenneth Elliott


(d Aberdeen, Nov 1675). Scottish music publisher. He was a stationer at Aberdeen, where he began publishing in 1656. In 1662 he and his son John (b Aberdeen; d Aberdeen, late 1704 or Jan 1705) were appointed official printers to the town and university by Aberdeen town council. They immediately ventured into music printing, presumably with town council backing; their first musical publication was Songs and Fancies: to Thre, Foure, or Five Partes, both Apt for Voices and Viols (1662, 2/1666, 3/1682), which was Scotland’s first secular printed music book. Its presentation and contents now appear old-fashioned, resembling London madrigal partbooks around 1600; it is prefaced by a short ‘Exposition of the Gamme’, lifted almost word for word from Morley’s A Plaine and Easie Introduction of 1597. The three editions vary slightly in content; altogether they contain 77 different songs, of which there are 23 by Dowland and his English contemporaries, six other English anonymous partsongs, ten ballad tunes, six Italian songs by Gastoldi with English texts, seven ‘new English-Ayres’ from recent Playford publications and, most importantly, 25 Scottish items, 16 from the 16th century. Curiously, only the cantus partbook was ever issued; it seems likely that Forbes was printing with sales to burgh music schools in mind (the Aberdeen music school is mentioned on the title-page). As music-school pupils mostly had unbroken voices, a preponderance of cantus copies would be required; other voice parts were perhaps supplied by Forbes in manuscript to individual order. The ...

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