The Handwriting of Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach had especially distinctive and beautiful handwriting. Of course, as is true with
each and every one of us, his handwriting changed as he grew older, and there are surviving examples
from his late teens onward. On this page I hope eventually to display samples of his handwriting at all
stages of his career.
As it turns out, in the first version of this page, I had what Lord Peter Wimsey refers to in Murder
Must Advertise as a "starling in the nest." And, of course, as a soi-disant Bach specialist, I should
have known better to begin with!
Joshua Rifkin was the first to call it to my attention and the distinguished specialist in the handwriting
of Johann Sebastian Bach, Yo Tomita, has confirmed that the page from the Second Collection 24
Preludes and Fugues that we customarily refer to as Book Two of Das Wohltemperirtes Clavier;
showing the "Prelude No. 15" is in fact, a fair copy in the hand of Anna Magdalena Bach. Here for
your continued reference, since this particularly beautiful handwriting is widely reproduced, in
correctly, as in fact "his" hand, is that page:
Now, let me provide you with genuine samples of the musical handwriting of Johann Sebastian Bach:
First, the opening page of "Gott ist mein König", BWV 71, a cantata written for the Inauguration
Service for the Mühlhausen Town Council in 1708:
Next, the opening page of the composing (and probably also the "conducting") score of the "Coffee
Cantata", BWV 211:
and two pages from the fair copy of the revised version of the "St. Matthew Passion", BWV 244,
that is generally dated to the year 1736:
To be expanded...
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Copyright, Teri Noel Towe, 1997
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