School of Music
University of Nebraska--Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68588-0100
(phone: [402] 472-2507; Internet: plefferts1@unl.edu)

Data entry: Peter M. Lefferts
Checked by: Peter Slemon
Approved by: Peter M. Lefferts

Author: Dee, John
Title: The Mathematical Preface (excerpt)
Source: Euclid, The elements of geometrie, trans. Henry Billingsley, with a preface by John Dee (London: J. Daye, 1570) [STC 10560], sig. bijv-biijr.

[-f.bijv-] Musike, of Motion, hath his Originall cause: Therfore, after the motions most swift, and most Slow, which are in the Firmament, of Nature performed: and vnder the Astronomers Consideration: now I will Speake of an other kinde of Motion, producing sound, audible, and of Man numerable. Musike I call here that Science, which of the Grekes is called Harmonice. Not medling with the Controuersie betwene the auncient Harmonistes, and Canonistes. Musike is a Mathematicall Science, which teacheth, by sense and reason, perfectly to iudge, and order the diuersities of soundes, hye and low. Astronomie and Musike are Sisters, saith Plato. As, for Astronomie, the eyes: So, for Harmonious Motion, the eares were made. But as Astronomie hath a more diuine Contemplation, and commodity, then mortall eye can perceiue: So, is Musike to be considered, that the * [1. in marg.] Minde may be preferred, before the eare. And from audible sound, we ought to ascende, to the examination: which numbers are Harmonious, and which not. And why, either, the one are: or the other are not. I could at large, in the heauenly * [2. in marg.] motions and distances, describe a meruailous Harmonie, of Pythagoras Harpe with eight stringes. Also, somwhat might be sayd of Mercurius * [4. 3. in marg.] two Harpes, eche of foure Stringes Elementall. And very straunge matter, might be alledged of the Harmonie, to our * [5. in marg.] Spirituall part appropriate. As in Ptolomaeus third boke, in the fourth and sixth Chapters may appeare. * [6. in marg.] And what is the cause of the apt bonde, and frendly felowship, of the Intellectuall and Mentall part of vs, with our grosse and corruptible body: but a certaine Meane, and Harmonious Spiritualitie, with [-f.biijr-] both participatyng, and of both (in a maner) resultyng? In the * [7. in marg.] Tune of Mans voyce, and also * [8. in marg.] the sound of Instrument, what might be sayd, of Harmonie: No common Musicien would lightly beleue. But of the sundry Mixture (as I may terme it) and concurse, diuerse collation, and Application of these Harmonies: as of thre, foure, fiue, or mo: Maruailous haue the effectes ben: and yet may be founde, and produced the like: with some proportionall consideration for our time, and being: in respect of the State, of the thinges then: in which, and by which, the wondrous effectes were wrought. Democritus and Theophrastus affirmed, that, by Musike, griefes and diseases of the Minde, and body might be cured, or inferred. And we finde in Recorde, that Terpander, Arion, Ismenias, Orpheus, Amphion, Dauid, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Asclepiades and Timotheus, by Harmonicall Consonancy, haue done, and brought to pas, thinges, more then meruailous, to here of. [Iohn Dee. Read in Aristotle his 8. booke of Politikes: the 5, 6, and 7 chapters. Where you shall haue some occasion farder to thinke of Musike, than commonly is thought. in marg.] Of them then, making no farder discourse, in this place: Sure I am, that Common Musike, commonly vsed, is found to the Musiciens and Hearers, to be so Commodious and pleasant, That if I would say and dispute, but thus much: That it were to be otherwise vsed, then it is, I should finde more repreeuers, then I could finde priuy, or skilfull of my meaning. In thinges therfore euident, and better knowen, then I can expresse: and so allowed and liked of, (as I would wish, some other thinges, had the like hap) I will spare to enlarge my lines any farder, but consequently follow my purpose.

Return to 16th-Century File List

Return to the TME Home