Twenty songs


Collection of sacred, secular and textless (possibly instrumental) songs in three or four parts (SATB), known as ‘XX Songes’, or ‘Twenty Songs’.


Standardised TitleTwenty songs
Transcribed TitleBassus
Imprint[London]: Anno d[omi] die mentis Octobris
PlaceLondon, England
SubjectPart songs
TypePrinted music

British Library K.1.e.1.

Related Resource

John Milsom, ‘Songs and Society in Early Tudor London’, Early Music History 16 (1997), pp. 235-293.

H. M. Nixon, ‘The Book of XX Songs’, The British Museum Quarterly 16 (1951), pp. 33-35.

Robert Steele, The Earliest English Music Printing: A Description and Bibliography of English Printed Music to the Close of the Sixteenth Century (London: Chiswick Press, 1903), No. 11.


RISM B/I, 15306


Click 'View Music' above to turn the pages of this digitised book online.  See below for a PDF file you can save to your computer and print.

With list of contents, headed: 'In this boke ar co[n]teynyd. xx. so[n]ges. ix. of iiii. ptes/ and xi. of thre ptes'.

All in three parts, except for the following, in four parts: Cornysh’s ‘Pater noster’, Pygot’s ‘By, by lullaby’, Ashwell’s ‘She may be callyd’, Taverner’s ‘The bella’, Gwynnth’s ‘My love mournyth’, Cornysh’s ‘Pleasure it is’, Cornysh’s ‘Concordans Musicall’, both Fayrfax and Cowper’s ‘Ut re my fa sol la’.

The composers named in this collection are: Cornysh, Pygot, Ashwell, Tavernar, Gwynneth, Fayrfax, Cowper, Jones and Thomas Stretton, the last-named in the MS. portion only.

Copy at K.1.e.1. Bassus part book only, and one leaf from each of the medius and triplex part books. Songs added in manuscript at the end of the bassus part book: 1) Behold & see how byrds doth fly – samoht notterts [Thomas Stretton: name written backwards] 2) By a banke as I ley (second part: The nyghtyngalle, ye lady and mestres of alle musyk (third part: None may w[ith] hym co[m]pare) – anonymous 3) In praise of ‘ye defender of owr feythe’ – Henry VIII.

Bassus (45 + 7 leaves), Triplex (1 leaf), [Medius (1 leaf)]; without pagination. Titlepage, sig. A-L, in fours. The printed notes stop in the recto of sig. L.4; the verso contains printed lines with music in manuscript. 2 leaves entirely in MS follow, and then 4 unsigned with printed lines and MS music; a blank leaf at the end. Bound up with this Bassus part is the first leaf of the Triplex. With a photograph of the fragmentary title and colophon leaf of the Medius part in Westminster Abbey Library.

Indexed names

Ashewell, Thomas, b. ca. 1478, composer. 
Cornysh, William, d. 1523, composer. 
Cowper, Robert, ca. 1474-ca. 1540, composer. 
Fayrfax, Robert, 1464-1521, composer. 
Gwynneth, John, composer. 
Henry VIII, King of England, 1491-1547, composer. 
Jones, Robert, fl. ca. 1520-35, composer. 
Pygott, Richard, 16th cent., composer. 
Taverner, John, ca. 1490-1545, composer. 
Stretton, Thomas, composer. 

Table of Contents

Pater noster [qui] es in celis / Cornyshe -- In youth in age both in welth and woo / Cowper -- By by lullaby rockyd I my chyld / Pygot -- Be war my lytyl fynger syr -- She may be callyd a sovra[n]t lady / Ashwell -- The bella we maydis beryth / Tavernar -- So gret unkyndnes wyth oute deservyng / docter Cowper -- Who shall have my fayr lady / R Jons [Index: Jones] -- Mynyon go trym -- Joly felowe yf thou have but lytyll mony -- And wyll ye serve me so for my kyndnes -- Mi hart my mynde a[n]d my hole poure / Taverner -- Love wyll I & leve so yt may befall / Master Taverner -- My love mournyth [Bassus begins: And I mankynd have not in mynd] / John gwynneth -- Pleasure yt ys to here I wys the byrds synge / Cornyshe -- Concordans musycall Judgyd by the ere of sy[gh]tys gydyng / Cornysh -- Min hartys lust & all my plesure ys gevyn / Fayrfax -- Fa la soll / Cornyshe -- Ut re my fa sol la / Fayrfax -- Ut re my fa sol la / Doctor Couper.

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