Seminal work on Byzantine church music and pioneering book on ecclestical music in Romanian language, 1823


Makarie Ieromonahul: Theoritikon (…) [Theoreticon, or Comprehensive view of the craft of church music according to the new system]. With 6 folded lithographic 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 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 leaves (title, author's preface)], pages [1-2], 3-30 (signatures: 1-44); 6 numbered folded plates. Lithography, wood engraving, red and black letterpress in Romanian Cyrillic on laid paper and cardboard (plates), bound in contemporary half leather with ornamental spine title and marbled boards.

A seminal work on Byzantine church music and pioneering book on ecclestical music in Romanian language.

Contents, Illustration: The »Theoreticon« of Romanian Orthodox priest monk and scholar Macarie 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 of 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 intonate 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 are executed in fine lithography and systematically depict the elements of notation (scales etc.) according to the new system.

Provenance: Mihail Vulpescu (1888-1956), an eminent Romanian tenor, musicologist and ethnologist, with his hand-written owner's remark on leave 2 verso: „Dar din partea mea, Profesor Mihail Vulpescu / 21.IV.1943. / Bucuresti / Splaiul Unirei 78.“ (A gift to myself (...)

Condition: Top and bottom of spine as well as boards with some wear, boards with little creasing and at joints as well as end papers slightly worm-eaten, plate 2 in parts foxy, paper partly time-stained.

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. These are seldom complete, due the importance and beauty of the large-format plates, who were regularly cut out.

As of Oct. 2nd 2023 only 4 copies of Macarie's »Theoriticon« can be located in institutional holdings worldwide according to OCLC/WorldCat and KVK (Harvard (incomplete), London [UC, 2 copies], Princeton (incomplete?). Particularly rare in trade, RBH and JAP/APO quote no auction appearances of a complete copy 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.