Robert de Handlo

Robert de Handlo, after whom this Web page is named, was probably one of the distinguished de Handlo family who lived at Handlow in Kent during the 13th and 14th centuries. The manuscript of his treatise, Regule cum maximis Magistri Franconis cum additionibus aliorum musicorum compilate a Roberto de Handlo, completed at around 1326, was almost totally destroyed by a fire in Ashburton House in 1731. Fortunately, J. C. Pepusch had commissioned a copy of it not long before and this manuscript is now in the British Museum.

The treatise consists of 13 rubrics derived from various musical authorities such as Franco (the most prolific), Petrus de Cruce, Petrus Le Viser, Johannes de Garlandia and many others. Each rubric contains practical rules of annotation, illustrated with musical examples, together with subsidiary maxims which sometimes modify or elaborate the main rubric. Some maxims also give practical information about performing practice. Although Robert de Handlo probably contributed little original work, he was a great synthesiser of a vast range of secular, sacred and instrumental music that was rapidly coming into existence. His compilation was a major step forward in the regularisation of music notation.

The Regule formed the basis of John Hanboy’s treatise written a century later. Also de Handlo’s great contribution to music was mentioned by Thomas Morley (some of whose songs are on our list) in his own book, A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke written 150 years later still (1597). Now, 400 years further on, Robert de Handlo’s name is revived again, this time in the new medium of digitally engraved and published music. We hope that he approves.

Keith Hudson,

General editor, Handlo Music