By Marin Mersenne (on Wikipedia). Published in 1636, dealing with the theory of music and musical instruments, it is regarded as a source of information on 17th-century music, especially French music and musicians, to rival even the works of Pietro Cerone.

5 Annotations

First Reading

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Mersenne, Marin (1588 - 1648)
Harmonie Universalle, Contenant la Theorie et la Pratique de la Musique, Ou il est traité de la Nature des Sons, & des Mouuemens, des Consonances, des Dissonances, des Genres, des Modes, de la Composition, de la Voix,des Chants, & de toutes sortes d'Instrumens Harmoniques. par F. Marain Mesenne de l'Ordre des Minimes.
A Paris: Chez Sebastien Cramoisy, Imprimeur ordinaire du Roy,rue S. Iacques, aux Cicognes. M. DC. XXXVI.

2 vols fo.,

PL 2494 (both vols bound together in one)

Full text in digital facsimile at:…

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Father Marin Mersenne (1588 - 1648) hosted an early version of the Invisible College, corresponding with the great brains of his day, all over Europe. He wrote many books, but his great achievement on musical theory, "The Harmonie Universelle", is where he offers what is still considered a major contribution to the scientific understanding of “consonance” and acoustics.

What follows are highlights from a dissertation on his life and work:

The eight books of "Harmonie Universelle", were published between 1636 and 1637. It presents a great many editorial variants, as Mersenne never ceased to work on it, annotating his own copy. The important “Traité de la nature du son”, which constitutes the first part of the work, focuses on the study, undertaken in a mechanistic spirit, of acoustic quantities, their physical nature and their effects on physiology and passions.

In considering the general interconnection of sciences, Mersenne granted music an almost architectonic function. All the sciences borrow something from each other. As manifested in the encyclopedic character of the "Harmonie Universelle", music was for Mersenne as the connecting principle of the various disciplines, allowing for their exposition.

A thorough investigation of musical properties requires forays into theology, moral philosophy (the passions of the soul), optics, arithmetic and geometry, and of course mechanics as sounds are motions of the air, that have to be accounted for in a mechanical way. Conversely, and at a deeper level, music may be seen as a total science, theoretically capable of representing the proportions that exist between all parts of the mechanical universe:

“… it is also easy to conclude that one can represent everything in the world and, consequently all the sciences, by means of Sound; for, since everything consists in weight, number and measure, and sounds represent these three properties, they can signify anything one wishes, excluding metaphysics.”

In particular, music may teach men how, through motions, objects communicate their properties to the senses, which themselves are like instruments, more or less well attuned to the external motions of the sensible.

Music would then become the general science of the properties of the sensible, a kind of general aesthesis uniting mixed mathematics in one universal science, whose acquisition would make our elevation to the consideration of the first cause easier.…

I wonder if Pepys read this in the original French, or had it been translated into English? If French, my confusion about his fractured French/mangled Spanish entries increases ... these volumes wouldn't be for beginners in music, mathematics or French.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"I wonder if Pepys read this in the original French, or had it been translated into English?"

I reread the entry when Pepys orders the books, and he specifies they will be in French. I'm impressed, I confess.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.