(from Old Fr. olifant: ‘elephant’, properly cor d'olifant).
Medieval end-blown ivory horn, sometimes finely carved, perhaps more often used as a token of land tenure or rights, and by churches as a reliquary, than as a musical instrument. Oliphants were made from the 10th century and particularly in the 11th, largely by Muslim craftsmen in south Italy and Sicily. There is no proof that Charlemagne or his knights possessed an oliphant and sounded it in battle, despite a mention in the Chanson de Roland, though among the surviving examples at least three are said to be the one Roland blew at Roncevaux. Unlike earlier specimens the 11th-century oliphants were left smooth in two places to accommodate metal bands which took a slinging chain. Some 60 of this type are known, including the ‘horn of Ulf’ in York Minster (see illustration). Ivory horns, usually highly decorated, continued to be made, especially in Benin (such instruments are known as ‘Afro-Portuguese’), from the Renaissance to the 18th century; these horns were given as princely gifts from one potentate to another.
J.C.Bridge: ‘Horns’, Journal of the Chester & North Wales Architectural, Archaeological and Historical Society, new ser., xi (1905), 85–166
F.Crane: Extant Medieval Musical Instruments: a Provisional Catalogue by Types (Iowa City, 1972)
D.Ebitz: ‘The Oliphant: its Function and Meaning in a Courtly Society’, Houston German Studies, vi (1986), 123–41
D.Ebitz: ‘Oliphant’, The Dictionary of Art, ed. J. Turner (London, 1996)
ANTHONY C. BAINES/JEREMY MONTAGU
(b Condie, Perthshire, 25 Dec 1799; d London, 9 March 1873). Scottish musical author, editor and cataloguer. Educated privately and at Winchester, he entered the Stock Exchange, but abandoned commerce to follow a musical career. For over 40 years he was an active member of the Madrigal Society, of which he became honorary secretary in 1832. He seems to have held that office until 1871, when he was made a vice-president; he was elected president in 1872. His study of madrigals induced him to publish some 50 English and Italian works in popular editions and several cognate books. Many first and early editions of madrigals were in Oliphant’s private music library, which was auctioned by Puttick & Simpson in 1873.
From November 1841 to July 1850 Oliphant was employed as a temporary assistant in the British Museum. Vigorous protests had previously been made to the trustees for allowing the music in their collections to accumulate uncatalogued. Oliphant's appointment was strongly criticized (notably in the Musical World) but, whether or not due to his membership of the influential Madrigal Society, it was of incalculable benefit to the museum. Oliphant not only cleared off the arrears but also laid the foundation for future expansion. Within a year he completed a catalogue of the MS music; he then turned his attention to the far greater quantity of printed works. Most of them had been received by deposit under the Copyright Acts, but there was also important earlier music acquired by purchase, a policy which was then in its infancy, but which Oliphant did much to develop. Ultimately he wrote over 24,000 catalogue entries, and then, with the support of Antonio Panizzi, the redoubtable Keeper of Printed Books (who had drawn up the rules for cataloguing music early in 1840), arranged the slips in 45 folio volumes for the use of readers. Such was the foundation of the catalogue of printed music, which has now expanded into the 62-volume Catalogue of Printed Music in the British Library to 1980 (1981–7) and its successor, the Current Music Catalogue database.
Oliphant's instinctive grasp of the principles of sound cataloguing was all the more remarkable since he worked at a time when professional training for librarianship was quite unknown. Early in 1850 he put forward a well-thought-out memorandum for the development of music in the collections. Panizzi, whose attitude to music was ambiguous and who certainly found Oliphant difficult, laid the memorandum before the trustees, but did not recommend its adoption. Oliphant resigned.
Comments of a Chorus Singer, at the Musical Festival, in Westminster Abbey, 1834 (London, 1834) [written under the pseud. Solomon Sackbut]
A Brief Account of the Madrigal Society (London, 1835)
A Short Account of Madrigals (London, 1836)
La Musa Madrigalesca, or A Collection of Madrigals, Ballets, Roundelays, &c. chiefly of the Elizabethan Age: with Remarks and Annotations (London, 1837)
Catalogue of Manuscript Music in the British Museum, ed. F. Madden (London, 1842)
DNB (W.H. Cummings)
Panizzi papers, GB-Lbl
A.H.King: ‘The Music Room of the British Museum, 1753–1953: its History and Organization’, PRMA, lxxix (1952–3), 65–79
C.B.Oldman: ‘Panizzi and the Music Collections of the British Museum’, HMYB, xi (1961), 62–7
A.H.King: Printed Music in the British Museum (London, 1979)
ALEC HYATT KING/R
(fl Ripoll, 1037–65). Catalan theorist, poet and mathematician. He wrote a Breviarium de musica (ed. in Anglès, 1976) at the request of a fellow Benedictine monk who asked for an explanation of the correct mathematical division of the monochord. It is dedicated to the abbot of Ripoll, also named Oliva, and is the earliest music treatise by a Catalan. The subject matter includes the three genera (diatonic, chromatic and enharmonic) and the eight tones or tropes. The autograph manuscript (in E-Bac) continues with parts of the De institutione musica of Boethius, the 9th-century Musica enchiriadis and its associated texts, and Hucbald’s De harmonica institutione.
J.Villanueva, ed.: Viage literario a las iglesias de España, viii (Madrid and Valencia, 1821), 55–6, 222–3
R.Beer: Bibliotheca patrum latinorum hispaniensis, ii, ed. Z. Garcia (Vienna, 1915/R), 20–21
J.Millàs Vallicrosa: Assaig d’història de les idees físiques i matemàtiques a la Catalunya medieval (Barcelona, 1931), 224ff
H.Anglès: La música a Catalunya fins al segle XIII (Barcelona, 1935/R), 64ff