Courtiers in fifteenth-century Europe loved to move their feet to the rhythm graceful music. And when they forgot the choreography, they consulted an elegant booklet written in gold and silver on dark black vellum.
The Dancing Book of Margaret of Austria is not just proof of the development of European music in the period between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance – it is also one of the few extant manuscripts written on black tinted parchment. A masterpiece of courtly art, the booklet contains the notes, choreography, and texts of fifty-nine basses danses (low dances) traditionally performed at the Burgundian court, penned in elegant gold and silver and adorned with initials.
Presumably owned by Mary of Burgundy, wife of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, the manuscript passed on to her daughter Margaret of Austria, to whom it owes its current title.
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