Georgius Handschius and Music: Notes on the Role of Music in the Life of the Humanist Scholar
As one of the seven liberal arts, musica was an essential, organic element of the erudition of a Humanist scholar. An educated person living in that era was likely to apply his scholarly skills either in the living practice of singing, or in equal measure, in his own literary output, whether in prose or versified. Georgius Handschius, a Humanist scholar hailing from Česká Lípa, northern Bohemia, was a notable member of this learned community.
Handschius stands out as a figure of particular interest to scholarly studies in the field of music history. The scion of a Protestant background, he obtained his education, apart from Charles University, also at the Latin school in Goldberg, Silesia, and later on took up medical studies in Italy. Though in his subsequent professional career he established himself primarily as a physician and his writings therefore belong chiefly in this field, he did likewise produce a body of poetic texts with a significant number of musical allusions. These are present in his collections of Farragines dedicated to Jan Hodějovský z Hodějova, as well as in his manuscript collection of verse, ΡΑΠΣΩΔΗΑΙ sive Epigrammata Georgii Handscii Lippensis, which is currently deposited along with his other posthumous papers at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (sign. Cod. 9821).
Analysis of Handschius´ verse has revealed his affinity for music from an early age. It is documented by his poems dedicated to priest and composer Balthasar Resinarius, with whose work Handschius was well acquainted. His poems dating from the time of his Prague studies duly reflect his fairly thorough knowledge of musici, as well as his close contacts with Humanists whose lives were likewise associated with music. Apart from poems relating to music, Handschius´ output also contains a polemic in verse accompanied by melody, harking back to his German-language background. Nor did music cease to feature in Handschius´ output at its peak, during the time he spent in the service of Andreas Mattioli, personal physician to Ferdinand II of Tyrol, a period when he moved in the circles around Prague Castle. This is illustrated by his dedication of an epithalamion to an Italian member of the court orchestra of the Elector of Saxony, an eloquent example of the broad scope of relations between 16th century musicians and scholars.
Keywords: Georgius Handschius, musica, Humanism