Royal Historical Society

I must share the excitement – I’ve been elected a member of the Royal Historical Society! It’s an honour, and I’m proud to be a musicologist considered worthy for election. So much is happening these days with regard to how history is viewed by various sectors of society – I feel it is important to be part of the informed conversation.

Sharing details of a cataloguing vacancy

Remember, my project into Stationers’ Hall copyright music included the erstwhile library of Sion College?

Anything surviving in that library went to Lambeth Palace, which now has a splendid new library building. Well, I have just seen this advert for a cataloguer posted. Knowing how little music is there, it’s a job for a rare books cataloguer really, but I can’t NOT share details, since I feel a tenuous connection with the library through our research project!

Here goes – and good luck! :-

Project Cataloguer (Sion College Library) Lambeth Palace Library

Fixed term (two years) £26,954 p.a. rising to £28,983 p.a. after probation

Lambeth Palace Library, founded in 1610, is the historic library and record office of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Following the merger with the Church of England Record Centre in 2020 it is now the principal repository for the archives not only of the Archbishop of Canterbury but also of the National Church Institutions in London.

We are looking for a new team member to support the vision and mission of the Library by describing, developing, interpreting and promoting the Library’s collections for the benefit of readers, particularly the pre-1850 printed collections of Sion College Library (founded 1629).

Using your previous experience of cataloguing printed material and your understanding of cataloguing standards, you will create high-quality catalogue records for early printed books and other printed material, to agreed targets and standards.

Engaging with our readers and researchers, you will promote the use of the collections, answering enquiries and participating in outreach and engagement activities to support the Library’s vision to be accessible to all.

This post is offered on a fixed term contract expected to last for two years. Interviews are expected to be held on Tuesday 31st August 2021.For further details and to apply, please visit:…/project…. Informal enquiries may be made to

A Gift for a Musical Friend? Or a Disappointment!


My lovely new book sits on the piano looking, frankly, grand. Diagonal tartan paper on top of cloth-bound covers, the red cloth spine and corners peeping out tantalisingly, and a gold-embossed title. It does indeed look like the advertisement’s promise of being a great gift for a music-loving friend.

I have my own set of questions that I always ask when I open a new book of Scottish songs, and I’ll apply the same tests to “Morven” as I would any other book. But first, I played a couple of tunes from “Morven” this evening. My heart sank. Then Himself called through to me, “What on earth’s THAT you’re playing?” And with reason! The arrangements aren’t bad, technically, but they’re unbelievably prosaic. To be fair, they aren’t too demanding, so they’re accessible at least.

Listen to the introduction of Oh for the bloom of my own native heather, and you’ll see what I mean:-…/oh-for-the-bloom-of-my-own

My next step is to see how long Mozart Allan went on advertising it! It was first published in the 1890s, and my advertising leaflet with ‘An ideal gift for your musical friend’ is from the mid 1920s – but it would appear my copy of the vocal score was owned by someone in 1951. It’s in good condition, so perhaps it WAS still being sold then. (The address could place it anywhere between the late 1920s and the mid 1960s.)

I’m just a little bit sorry for all those countless musical friends who, nearly a century ago, eagerly opened their new book of Scottish songs, and found a batch of well-known songs in plain, unimaginative settings! You know that feeling?

A Word to the Wise

I needed to buy some music for church this weekend. And to console myself (because it wasn’t really my favourite kind of music), I ordered some old Mozart Allan music too.

  1. If ordering from Amazon, note that they may not tell you something is for “easy piano”. To avoid receiving insufficient notes, look VERY CAREFULLY at the photo of the book. Hal Leonard seem to put “EASY PIANO” in very small print at the top of the cover. Two of my purchases have had to return to Amazon.
  2. If ordering from Abe, be very careful to check that what you’re ordering actually IS music, or you’ll get No Notes At All. You didn’t know Mozart Allan produced word-books? Well, actually, I was aware of this. And now I have another one!
  3. Maybe you have absolutely no interest in where secondhand music came from, but as a point of interest, my Mozart Allan word book came super speedily from Derry, whilst another publication is going to come all the way from Canada. Considering it’s a promotional publication, that’s a fair indication that Mozart Allan advertised pretty widely, isn’t it?!

Weekends are Dangerous

There’s going to be a lot of activity at my front door in the next few days. I confess I had a spending spree. First, I ordered new, not-terribly-exciting organ music (needs must, but not my own taste!) … and then I had to console myself with some old Mozart Allan scores. Ironically, I won’t be playing a couple of them publicly, but I feel I can’t write about delicate, topical issues without seeing these old scores for myself. Not out of any remote sense of liking them, but because it wouldn’t be right to address the issues without knowing exactly what the publications are like. No second-hand, reported commentary for me.

To counterbalance those, I ordered some Scottish piano tunes and an advertising brochure which has to come all the way from Canada. These will give me considerable pleasure!

When Less is More (Blog to Book)

Returning visitors to these pages may find the content thinner than it used to be. Now that I’m working on my next book, I want my best content to be honed to perfection and triple-checked before I commit it to print. Rather than leave extended writings – which I posted as ‘work in progress’ – sitting on the internet, I’ve pruned what is here. In general, I continue to research the topics I posted here (Scottish music publishers James Kerr, Mozart Allan and many others, and interrogations of cultural issues), and any new details or dates which I didn’t know at the time of blogging, could potentially change what I originally wrote. And also, of course, I want readers of the book to be surprised and delighted by new insights that no-one knew before!

I shall continue to blog, of course. How could I not? I have so many ideas buzzing round my head that it’s hard keeping them all to myself!

Chasing Research Grants

Also posted on Facebook, 26 May 2021

Hello again, dear followers! I’ve heard of a research grant that I am eligible to apply for. It’ll receive applications from many researchers, so I haven’t got a particularly strong chance of succeeding, but it would be nice to get a research grant to help me get on with writing my book, so … I shall have to see what’s involved in making an application!

I thought I’d share my current plans for the book. So far, I’ve written some of the introduction, and most of the first chapter.

This is the shape of the thing:-

  • 1. Cheap music for all: James S. Kerr and Mozart Allan (history)
  • 2. Enduring Kerr and Mozart Allan titles, what was in them and why they were so successful.
  • 3. Organisations (Glasgow and Scotland-wide) concerned with music making and with promoting Scottish music
  • 4. Educational connections
  • 5. Educationalists and how they fit into the scene
  • 6. Overseas.
  • 7. Spin-offs and tie-ins
  • 8. Publishing “classical” music in Scotland
  • 9. Domestic music-making in Glasgow

Considering how long it has taken just to get the first chunk written, you see what I have got ahead of me. Some chapters will be longer than others, and some of these topics may get merged. Who knows?!

(The image here is from Glasgow Museums Collection:-

Music Engravers (a recap)

Six years ago, I wrote a wee blogpost about music engravers for Whittaker Live – the Whittaker Library had a Blogspot blog for many years, until I migrated it to WordPress last year.

Just in case it ever goes missing, I thought I’d reproduce that single posting here, now. The truth of the matter is that music librarians don’t generally spend a lot of time with really old volumes, whilst rare books librarians spend a lot of time with really old volumes … but music is only a small part of their remit. This means that things that are obvious to librarians with one specialism may not be obvious to their counterparts in a different library or department.

Can You Tell Your Scripsit From Your Sculpsit? (20 May 2015)

Here’s a little bit of book history to broaden your mind!

If you’re looking at REALLY old music, sometimes you see tiny writing at the bottom of the title page – “Script” or “Sculpt”, and then a name.  Rudolf Rasch, who is a book historian, and Associate Professor of Musicology (Emeritus) at Utrecht University,  has kindly provided us with an explanation:-

“Script = scripsit = “he wrote”, normally this refers to the one who designed the engraving or made a drawing as a design for the engraving. This should refer to a title page only. [Typesetter is not a good description of this person.]
“Sculpt = sculpsit = “he sculpted”, refers to the engraver.

“If a title page is signed by a “sculpsit” one is not a priori certain that the same engraver did the music too. The best way to decide whether the engraver of the title page also engraved the music is too look at the form of the letters on the title page and on the music pages. In many situations title page and music are engraved by the same hand, but there may be cases where the publisher had different engravers work at the title page and the music.
“But please keep in mind: 18th-century indications are never full-proof. Never turn off common sense.”So now you know. Just a little advancement in knowledge every day …!  One day you might be grateful to Whittaker for sharing this little piece of book history with you!

If you enjoyed this, you’ll love a blogpost that Kelsey Jackson Williams wrote for this present blog, a few years ago. Here you are:-

Georgian lady borrowers at the University of St Andrews

I have just contributed a blogpost to a research project blog that is hosted by the University and Stirling. The project is called, Books and Borrowing 1750-1830: an Analysis of Scottish Borrowing Records. There are a large number of participating partners – visit this page to find out more.

I revisited Miss Elizabeth Lambert (later Mrs Williams), Mrs Bertram and her daughters, and Principal Playfair’s daughter, Janet. Here’s the blogpost:-

7 Pieces of Music to be Arranged: Women Borrowers and the First Female Cataloguer of the St Andrews Copyright Music Collection

Books and Book Borrowing: Research led by Stirling University

If you were involved with, or followed the Claimed From Stationers’ Hall copyright music project, then news of this project led by the University of Stirling will probably also interest you.

Books and Borrowing 1750-1830: An Analysis of Scottish Borrowers’ Registers

Here’s how the project is introduced:-

“Our project uncovers and reinterprets the history of reading in Scotland in the period 1750 to 1830. Using formerly unexplored (or underexplored) borrowing records, we are [ … ] creating a valuable new resource that will reveal hidden histories of book use, knowledge dissemination and participation in literate culture.”

I’ve been invited to contribute a blogpost about the lady musicians of St Andrews, so watch this space … !