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In the tablatures, letters are used to describe the chords.
Does anyone know why the symbol used for the E minor chord is a cross and why the E minor ?
I wish I knew as well. I wonder if earlier alfabeto systems started with the G major chord labeled "A," and as the system grew, they knew that the e-minor chord needed to be in proximity ti the G major chord, so they used a non alphabetic character and placed it by the G major chord?
this is just conjecture. I have no historical evidence whatsoever. And I havent a clue why that symbol would be the maltese cross.
The earliest surviving - incomplete - table of alfabeto chords is found in the manuscript known as the Cancionero Bezon dating from 1599. This starts with A and does not include a symbol for the E minor chord although some of the chords are not filled in. Montesardo's table begins with A and has the E minor chord represented with a cross following chord F - the E major chord. Kapsberger's table of chords in Libro terzo di villanelle (1619) starts with A and has the E minor chord represented by X. Sanseverino (1620/22) starts with A and represents the E minor chord with a B' right at the end. I think the first person to put the cross at the beginning of the sequence is Colonna. The E minor chord is actually one which is not very frequently used for various reasons. It is possible that Colonna moved the cross to the beginning of the sequence for religious reasons - the cross must become before everything else. That's the way they did things in the 17th century.
Thank you Monica for these exhaustive details !
I did a bit more research - I think the first person to put chord + at the beginning of the sequences was Corradi in a songbook printed in Venice in 1616. Other Venetian songbooks do as well I think Perhaps Venetians were especially religious.
You often see a "+" at the top of the first page of many Spanish works both literary and musical. I understand it was some sort of dedication more or less like the morning offering in the morning prayers in Catholic schools. People who have gone to Marist Schools write a JMJ (Jesus Mary and Joseph) at the top of the first page of their homeworks.
So my guess is that putting a "+" at the beginning of every alfabeto chart had a similar use... a dedication to God in every chart you shared. Of course, I have no evidence, but maybe...