Commissions, Enquiries, Disputes

Unknown artist; King's College from the East
Unknown artist; King’s College from the East; Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums;

Looking into the history of the copyright music collection at the University of Aberdeen, there’s a wealth of information about the history of the two university colleges – King’s College and Marischal College – and their endless dispute about who should receive the legal deposit books from Stationers’ Hall.

  • Iain Beavan published a great article in Library and Information History in 2015: ‘Marischal College Library, Aberdeen, in the Nineteenth Century: an Overview’ (LIH 31:4, pp.258-279)
  • I have in front of me a magnificent tome published in 2011: The Library and Archive Collections of the University of Aberdeen: an Introduction and Description, edited by Iain Beavan, Peter Davidson and Jane Stevenson.
  • There’s also an article by Richard Turbet listing which music was received by King’s College prior to 1801 – not much of the repertoire survives now – ‘Music deposited by Stationers’ Hall at the Library of the University and King’s College of Aberdeen, 1753-96′, in the Royal Music Association Research Chronicle no.30 (1997) pp.139-162

As part of this project, I’ll be compiling a bibliography of literature and sources pertaining to the historical copyright music claimed from Stationers’ Hall – these are the kinds of materials that will be going into it!  The bibliography might appear in this  blog, or perhaps in our institutional repository.  Or I could try to publish it in a journal: what would you find most useful?

This week, I’ve been reminded that one can’t focus on the copyright music in Aberdeen without being aware of the animosity between King’s College, who received the copyright deposits – and Marischal College, which didn’t, but technically had access to them.  Access? That’s a moot point.  Access to the college libraries was exceptionally restricted!

So we find ourselves not only looking at listings of the kind of publications that this project concerns, but also at documented arguments between institutions, and public demands for more access to the materials paid for out of public moneys and by student fees.  It’s very easy to disappear down a rabbit warren of Royal Commission reports, appendices and memoranda, learning more and more about the seemingly endless circling that preceded the union of King’s and Marischal into the University of Aberdeen, and – of course – the library provision.  This is all fascinating stuff, but leads one away from the main project question: What happened to the copyright music?

Iain Beavan pointed me to the ‘Evidence’, from one of the professors interviewed by a Commission in 1827. Reverend Professor William Paul was librarian for a year at some earlier point. Asked if legal deposit books were sold, he was clear that they were not, but that some music had been sold in the past:-  “I believe a little time before I came into the College the music was sold.”  He actually came to the College in 1811, and the Copyright Act Revd Paul referred to elsewhere in his evidence was that of 1814.

The reference was fiendishly tricky to track down, but it can be found on Google books as well (of course) in a few libraries, on page 64:-

  • Commissioners for Visiting the Universities and Colleges of Scotland, Evidence, Oral and Documentary, Taken and Received by the Commissioners … for Visiting the Universities of Scotland.  Vol.4, Aberdeen (London: HMSO, 1837)

We might note that Revd Paul is alluding to a time prior to 1811, whilst ‘Caleb Concord’ (actually John Jaffray), whom I blogged about last week, raised the issue of what happened to the copyright music at King’s College, in the Aberdeen Censor in 1824.  However, the long-lived Jaffray’s much later obituary reveals that he went to Edinburgh in 1811 to work for the Church of Scotland’s Missionary schemes – not his first church appointment – suggesting that both Reverend gents were alluding to something that happened in the early years of the 19th century.

(I’ve just recorded a podcast about the Claimed From Stationers Hall music research project. You might care to listen to it here.)


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