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Talbot, James locked

  • Anthony C. Baines
  • , revised by Darryl Martin

(b London, 1664; d Spofforth, 1708). English writer on music . He was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge where he matriculated in 1683, becoming a minor Fellow in 1689 and major Fellow in 1690. He played a leading role in the early promotion of Cambridge University Press. He was Regius Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge from 1699 to 1704 when he moved to Spofforth, where he had a rectorship since 1700. He received his doctorate from Cambridge in 1705. His importance to music history derives from his manuscript GB-Och Music MS 1187 (formerly owned by Henry Aldrich) which provides copious information on instruments. The manuscript, which was probably written between 1690 and 1700, consists mainly of 250 numbered sheets on which are recorded details of instruments; much of the information was obtained first-hand from leading players and makers (including Gottfried Finger, John Banister (ii), James Paisible, John Shore and William Bull) and from Talbot’s examination and measurement of instruments provided by these men. Other pages record tunings and tablatures, or quotations from Praetorius, Mersenne and Kircher. The remainder of the manuscript, including sections on ancient Greek music, is in another hand.


  • A.C. Baines and others: ‘James Talbot's Manuscript’, GSJ, 1 (1948), 9–26 [wind]; iii (1950), 27–45 [bowed strings]; v (1952), 44–7 [bagpipes]; xiv (1961), 52–68 [lutes]; xv (1962), 60–69 [other plucked strings]; xvi (1963), 63–72 [harps]; xxi (1968), 40–51 [harpsichord]
  • R. Unwin: ‘An English Writer on Music: James Talbot 1664–1708’, GSJ, 40 (1987), 53–72
  • J.R. Catch: ‘James Talbot's Viols’, Chelys, 17 (1988), 33–9
  • B. Haynes: ‘Bressan, Talbot and the “Galpin” Oboe’, GSJ, 43 (1990), 112–23
  • D. Martin: ‘The Identification of the Talbot Manuscript Harpsichord’, GSJ, 48 (1995), 46–51
  • E. Segerman: ‘The Sizes of English Viols and Talbot's Measurements’, GSJ, 48 (1995), 33–45
  • D. Van Edwards: ‘Talbot's English Theorbo Reconsidered’, FoMRHI Quarterly, no.78 (1995), 32–3
Oxford, Christ Church Library
Galpin Society Journal