Editorial Principles

The principles behind this series of editions are guided by maximum fidelity to the manuscript sources and an intimate knowledge of current performance practice. 


Autograph of Scarlatti’s Ombre tacite, e sole

We have the good fortune of access to a wide range of collections from the British Library, Additional Manuscript collection, in particular a series of manuscripts collected by Signor Gaspar Selvaggi, of Naples, the Royal College of Music, London, the Naples Conservatorii, Paris Conservatoire and the Santini Collection in Diözesan Bibliotek Münster, Germany.

Often the autograph manuscripts of operatic output demonstrate the intensely detailed ‘harmonic world’ composers created, above all in recitatives and this can make the task of recreating continuo figures a little easier.

Autograph manuscripts are rare and often the copyists do not include the wealth of detail provided by the composer when autographs are available. However it is possible to extrapolate the ways in which composers phrased, ornamented and underlaid text in the cantatas from other works.


The texts are often by well-known poets and were published contemporaneously. This means that there is often a verification or comparison available for the text in the work of another composer. Where the poet is untraceable, no comparison is available, or the text is indecipherable the most likely reading has been used and the word or words have been enclosed in brackets.

The underlay has been maintained as in the sources. Both underlay and beaming often indicate phrasing and where autograph manuscripts have been available, or the copy is particularly precise, this has been maintained in both vocal and instrumental parts.

Key Signatures

Key signatures are maintained as in the manuscripts and follow the baroque practice of using one sharp or flat less than the equivalent modern key signature. Recitatives generally have no key signature, allowing the line to move freely through widely disparate tonalities.

The 18th century convention was that chromatic inflections retain their validity only for as long as the note to which an accidental has been prefixed is repeated without interruption, irrespective of bar lines. Conversion to modern notation thus requires the occasional omission or addition of accidentals. In all other instances editorial accidentals are suggestion sonly and are enclosed in parentheses.

Time Signatures

Time Signatures have been maintained as in the original copies and are generally the same as their modern equivalents. Where triple time measures have been groups in units of two, this practice has been maintained, thus 3/4 may appear as 6/4 and 3/8 as 6/8.

Clefs and Ornamentation

The edition employs the following clefs: for instrumental parts, treble, alto, tenor and bass clefs following modern usage and for the vocal parts, treble clef. All ornaments and embellishments in this score are as in the manuscript sources. 

Basso Continuo

18thcentury composers and copyists used continuo figures both above and below the basso line. In these editions this is standardised this to place all continuo figures below the basso line. To clarify continuo accidentals, all have been converted to match the key signature in which they are found. In some copyists’ work there are few continuo figures and where the intention could be unclear we have provided figures in brackets as a guide.

James Sanderson
General Editor
April 2019