Seminal work on Byzantine church music, pioneering notation of music in Romanian, 1823


MAKARIE Ieromonahul: THEORITIKON, sau, Privire, Kuprinzătoare, a Meshteshugului Musikiei Bisericheshti (…) With 4 (of 6) plates. Vienna: 1823.

MAKARIE Ieromonahul: THEORITIKON, sau, Privire, Kuprinzătoare, a Meshteshugului Musikiei Bisericheshti, după ashăzămîntul Sistimii cheii noao (...) tîlmăchit din Grecheshte, pre limba Romaneskă, de smeritul Makarie Ieromonakhul (...) [Theoreticon, or Comprehensive view of the craft of church music according to the new system (...) translated from Greek into Romanian language by the humble Macarie Ieromonahul (...)] With 4 (of 6) folded lithographic plates and Byzantine musical notation throughout the text. Vienna: Self published, s.t. (Printing House of the Mekhitarist Congregation), [April] 1823.

Small-4to. [2 ll. (title, author's preface)], 30 [1] pp. (signatures: 1-44); 4 (of 6) numbered folded plates. Lithography, wood engraving, red and black letterpress in Romanian Cyrillics on laid paper and mint cardboard resp., bound in contemporary half leather with ornamental blind-stamped spine and multicolour marbled boards.

Seminal work on Byzantine church music and pioneering book on religious music in Romanian language.

Contents, Illustration: The »Theoriticon« of Romanian Orthodox priest monk and scholar Makarie Ieromonahul (1770-1836) is the first ever published introduction to Byzantine church music after the simplification of its notation implemented in the 1810s, and in the same time the first book in Romanian language on church music theory and its implementation in chanting practice. Trained in the Bucharest school for church music by Petru Efesiu, a pioneer in implementing the new system in the Romanian episcopal sees, Macarie in the late 1810s compiled his own texts for systematising, charting and promoting the Neo-Byzantine approach, and he did so in Romanian to aim at a broader audience. During the 1821 uprising against the Ottoman Phanariot administration Macarie however had to flee Bucharest, taking with him his manuscripts that he had not been able to print in the country yet. With support and funding by the Sibiu based merchant Hagi Pop he finally found a refuge in Vienna, where in 1823 he had three seminal works printed, the »Theoriticon« being the first and founding one (the »Anastasimatar« and the »Irmologhionu« followed lated in the same year).

The book is divided into 19 chapters. In the first eight Macarie speaks about how to interpret church chants and also presents the psaltic neumes together with temporal signs. Chapter 9 delivers an introduction to the psalter itself, and from chapter 10 onwards the author describes psalms 1 to 8, also referring to the accompanying plates. The last two chapters show examples of psaltic musical notation, printed elaborately in red and black.

The large format plates with are executed in fine lithography and systematically depict the elements of notation (scales etc.) according to the new system.

Condition: Present copy lacks plates nos. 1 and 3, copies seem to having been distributed without plates however (Harvard and Princeton catalogue entries quote copies with no plates at all for instance); top and bottom of spine with minor wear, otherwise well preserved copy.

Rarity, Holdings: Due to a printer's privilege for Cyrillic prints established by the authorities around 1794 in favour of the Pest (nowadays Budapest) University Press, Cyrillic prints of Vienna origin are particularly scarce in this time. Probably for this reason there is no imprint mentioned. The book was printed by the Armenian Mekhitarist printers however, with whom Macarie had signed up to have his manuscripts published in print and who were well equipped with non-latin letters, including Cyrillic ones. Although a print run of 3000 was agreed upon according to Ṣerban (1000 copies for each of the 3 Romanian episcopal sees (Țara Românească, Moldova, Transilvania), only a few copies have survived outside of nowadays Romania. As of August 6th 2022 only 4 copies of Makarie's »Theoritikon« can be located in institutional holdings worldwide according to OCLC/WorldCat and KVK (Harvard, London [UC, 2 copies], Princeton). RBH and JAP/APO quote no auction appearances at all.

Reference: Bibliografia Românească Veche, 1508-1830. Vol. 3, p. 425-427, no. 1185; Durstmüller I, 219; MGG2, VII, 1116 and 1139; New Grove XXI, 584; Ṣerban, Marius-Nicolae. „Tipăriturile psaltice ale lui Macarie Ieromonahul din Biblioteca Sfântului Sinod“ [The Psaltic Prints of Macarie Ieromonahul in the Synodal Library]. Librăria – studii și cercetări de biblioteconomie, vol. 13 (2014), pp. 145- 163.