Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Menu Search

First music degree from Dublin University, October 1612

This month marks the 400th anniversary of the first Bachelor of Music degree awarded by the University of Dublin, in October 1612. The recipient of this degree is not recorded, but circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that it was Thomas Bateson (d. 1630), organist and vicar choral at Christ Church Cathedral since 1609.

Thomas Morley ‘A plaine and easie introduction to practicall musicke’ London, 1608. Shelfmark: V.ee.45

Music was not taught in the College at this time, so Dublin University is likely to have followed the practice already established at Cambridge and Oxford of awarding the degree to a distinguished musician of proven ability, perhaps on submission and performance of a suitable composition.

p.116-117
Thomas Morley ‘A plaine and easie introduction to practicall musicke’ London, 1608. Shelfmark: V.ee.45

To celebrate this anniversary, two music publications from the period are currently on display in the Berkeley Library foyer. The first is ‘A plaine and easie introduction to practicall musicke’  by Thomas Morley (London, 1608). This was the first book on music theory to be published in the English language, and was amongst the earliest books purchased for the Library in the first decade of the 17th century. The book takes the form of a dialogue between the Master (Morley) and two pupils (the brothers Philomathes and Polymathes). It is laid out in three sections, dealing in turn with the rudiments of music, counterpoint and canon, and composition.

Also on display is John Dowland’s ‘First booke of songes or ayres’ (London, 1603), which has particular significance because of its innovative typographical design. Each song can be performed by a solo voice with lute accompaniment (printed on the left-hand page), but is also set for four voices, with the three lower voice parts printed on the right-hand page in a layout designed to allow the singers to read from a single copy while seated around a table (hence the term ‘table-book’ to describe this format).

John Dowland ‘First booke of songes or ayres’ London, 1603
Shelfmark: Press B.7.21

Five editions of this collection appeared between 1597 and 1613, making it the most successful musical publication of its time.

-Roy Stanley, Music Librarian, Trinity College Library.