When Less is More and More is Less

This may sound as though I’m speaking in riddles.  Truly, I’m not!

I alluded in my earlier posting today to the question of “When less is more”, in the context of the apparently minimal amount of Stationers’ Hall music surviving at Edinburgh University Library, and how I was forced to look at the little that was there, in quite a close focus.

But I still have copies of those lists of music that was SOLD by the National Library of Scotland.  So, on the one hand, we have very little of the music surviving in what was then “Edinburgh College”.  On the other hand, we have a list of music that we know was discarded by the Advocates Library in 1830.

I’ve started to transcribe these lists – only a few pages, but interesting nonetheless.  But, how do I rationalise to other people just why they’re interesting?  And this is why:-

If I can establish which of these discarded pieces actually SURVIVED in different libraries, then I get a snapshot view – fragmented and  blurred, admittedly – of which libraries retained more, or less, and I can see if certain categories were more likely to survive at that time, shortly before the legal deposit system was radically reduced.  Yes, it means another spreadsheet.  But I still think there may be something interesting to unearth.  Watch this space!

And yes, I do still need to establish whether there is music surviving but not yet catalogued online. I know about some of the libraries, but not absolutely clearly for all of them.  That’s why I’m making my visits around the country!

 

 

 

 

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Sion College Library Provenance Project

Followers of the Claimed From Stationers’ Hall music research project may be aware that Sion College (in London) was one of the original legal deposit libraries, and Karen is planning to pay a visit to Lambeth Palace Library, where the Sion College library holdings ended up, in the next few months.

It is therefore of HUGE interest to note that Lambeth Palace Library is working on a really significant project tracing provenance of the Sion College Library collections.  A circular was emailed to rare books librarians today, explaining precisely what this project is all about.  We have permission to share this notification here, and are more than happy to spread the joy!

“Lambeth Palace Library is pleased to announce the re-launch of the Sion College Library Provenance Project, which has been migrated to a dedicated WordPress account. The new site allows you to search through galleries of hundreds of images (which are being regularly uploaded), including an array of armorial bindings, bookplates, inscriptions and much more from the Sion College Library collection.

“All the pre-1850 material from Sion College came to Lambeth Palace Library in 1996 and is now the focus of a major cataloguing project which is uncovering a wealth of provenance evidence. Viewers are warmly invited to not only search the database to discover its fascinating contents, but are encouraged to actively contribute by helping us identify marks of provenance within the collection, providing information with which to supplement and enrich our detailed catalogue records. Please do have a look and try your hand at some transcriptions and identifications. We look forward to hearing your comments!”

Sion College Project

Building a Network

spider-web-with-water-beads-921039__340

I spent the day authoring and starting to disseminate the first network Newsletter; actually, it’s both an update and an invitation to particate!  After spending some time this evening reading MailChimp’s instructions, I worked out how to get the hyperlink for viewing in your browser.  Triumph!  Click the link to read it, here.

By way of light relief, I opened my favourite book – Kassler’s Music Entries at Stationers’ Hall* – to see what was registered on this day, over 200 years ago.  Two surprises awaited me.  In 1784, John Valentine of Leicester registered Thirty Psalm Tunes in Four Parts, and eleven copies are still extant, not only in legal deposit libraries.  Plainly psalm tunes were considered worth keeping (or leaving to libraries!); not only that, but Trinity College Dublin has a copy, and they didn’t as a rule show much interest in trivial matter such as legal deposit music.

The second surprise was some piano trios by Pleyel, dedicated to Miss Elizabeth Wynne and registered on 20th September 1790.  According to Copac, several copies survive in UK, and the British Library also has copies with a later date posited.  And there could still be others not yet catalogued online.  But here’s the exciting bit – you can access a German edition on IMSLP.  Who wants to be first to play it?!

http://imslp.org/wiki/3_Keyboard_Trios,_B.437-439_(Pleyel,_Ignaz)

* Michael Kassler, author of Music Entries at Stationers’ Hall, 1710-1818 : from lists prepared for William Hawes, D. W. Krummel and Alan Tyson  (Ashgate 2004), advises us that ‘since the demise of Ashgate, it is now published in hard copy and as an e-book by Routledge, and the e-book is £30 cheaper. See https://www.routledge.com/Music-Entries-at-Stationers-Hall-17101818-from-lists-prepared-for/Kassler/p/book/9780754634584

19th September – a pure coincidence

I checked Kassler’s Music Entries at Stationers’ Hall (2004) last night, to discover that although music wasn’t registered on a daily basis, it was actually registered on that date in three consecutive decades: 1797, 1807, and 1817.  A curious confluence of the stars, nothing more, but it made an interesting thumbnail case-study.Rauzzini On 19th September 1797: Singer and singing teacher Rauzzini registered no.7 of his Periodical Collection of Vocal Music.  Few copies survive, and it’s a bit hard to tell which volume contains no.7, though I know an expert who could probably locate it!

vauxhall gardens theatreAlso OTD in 1797, Bland & Weller registered James Hook’s Vauxhall Gardens song, Maidens would you know?, along with Hook’s Welsh song, Jem of Aberdovey, and his When the sprightly fife and drum.  It’s all pretty typical fare – a song  by a popular Bath impresario, and some Vauxhall Gardens songs including a ‘national’ and a military song, by composers still (just) known today.  As it happens, there were also imprints of another ‘Jem’ song by Hook under English, Irish and Scottish imprints – Jem of Aberdeen! – but that’s not part of the 19th September story.  You can trace a few copies in Copac, but certainly not in all of the legal deposit libraries.

Jump forward to 19th September 1807, and publisher Goulding registered 2 Dibdin songs for a show, Bannister’s Budget.  Copies survive in three Copac libraries today.  (If musical theatre is a popular genre today, it’s a case of ‘plus ca change’!)

Bath Assembly RoomsMeanwhile, exactly two hundred years ago yesterday, Bath musician John Charles White registered his piano rondo, The Fairy Queen on 19th September 1817.   There are seemingly three surviving copies in the UK.  However, there could be further copies of any of the aforementioned titles, because not all of the early legal deposit music has been catalogued online.  That’s the intriguing part of this story!

For now, this tiny snapshot of three anniversaries neatly encapsulates the kind of music popular in those decades: typical of their eras, they represent concerts by famous names in Vauxhall Gardens; touch upon the fashion for songs of a military nature during the Napoleonic Wars, the popularity of national songs; and a plethora of piano rondos for the amateur pianist.   Not bad, for a random handful of music entries in the Stationers’ Hall registers!
Vauxhall gardens scene

Today’s the Day! New Network, Claimed From Stationers’ Hall (early copyright music)

This is officially the start of the new AHRC-funded network, Claimed From Stationers Hall.  A fuller blogpost will appear within the next 24 hours.  Have a wander round the website, and please do get in touch if you’d like to be added to the email mailing list.  The topic is the music that was registered at Stationers’ Hall in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries up to 1836, so if you have an interest in music publishing of that era, or indeed anything involving British-published sheet music and its performance, or its documentation whether through conventional bibliographic means or in the context of digital humanities … then we’d love to hear from you!

 music history copyright legal deposit GIF

(Never let a musicologist near a gif! I promise to do better ….)

The Long Tail of Research …

I’ve recently spent a few days assessing a departmental music collection in St Andrews.  I St Andrewshad my ‘librarian hat’ on, primarily, but even that hat has a musicological lining, so I couldn’t help thinking research-minded thoughts from time to time.  In particular, one train of thought was provoked by the discovery of a pile of early 20th century popular songs with eye-catching cover art, betraying cultural trends and prevailing preoccupations such as patriotism around war-time; nostalgia; family ties; romantic relationships; or the portrayal of children.  Not ‘serious music’, this, but the pictures and the content, not to mention musical styles such as ragtime, all tell us about popular musical preferences.

Cover art - ukuleleIs it worth keeping, then?  It might be.  Not for the classical musicians to attempt to analyse as they would a Haydn string quartet, but to inform us about cultural history.  So, if early twentieth century popular music can inform us in this way, then it follows that the Georgian and early Victorian songs and other material appearing in legal deposit music collections will have their own stories to tell … and any statistics about library usage tells us just which volumes were popular with the borrowers.  I’ve made a start on this with the St Andrews historical copyright music collection, having collated the music borrowing records from 1801-1849 and started gathering statistics.

My other research-minded thoughts were more directly focused on the St Andrews historical collection.  We know that a twentieth-century professor dis-bound some volumes and redistributed their contents to other collections.  (How much he did, I have yet to discover. Not a huge amount, maybe, but it’s interesting all the same, isn’t it?)  And I’ve a suspicion that I unearthed a handful of disembodied legal deposit music pieces during my departmental collection assessment.  The librarian in me knows that they should go “home” to their special collection friends and relatives.  But the researcher itches to check out whether they really are taken from earlier bound collections, and whether they number amongst the items listed in the archival receipt books of materials claimed from Stationers’ Hall.

So, the Claimed from Stationers Hall project may be focused on early nineteenth century library collections, but there’s a long tail extending into at least the mid-twentieth.  It was hinted at in Elizabeth Frame’s article for the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society Transactions, but today’s scholars need to understand in perhaps greater detail just what the esteemed professor got up to!

Research Impact in Library Land

I’m reading a book about research impact at the moment.   (We have a copy in the library, but I’ve also got it on Kindle, so I have no excuse not to plough right through it!)  I must admit, there are moments when I metaphorically kick myself under the table, because some of the advice is basically common sense.  But, if it’s common sense, why didn’t I think of it?  So it’s a good idea to get reminded of the obvious things whilst simultaneously getting plenty of fresh ideas, and just generally making sure that impact is built into this research network right from the very start.

So, here are the first questions, quoted directly from my new guru (Mark S. Reed, author of the Research Impact Handbook, pp.72-73):-

  • “What aspects of [our] research might be interesting or useful to someone?…”
  • “Could [our] research help address these needs [ie, issues, policy areas … trends]?”
  • Can our research help remove barriers that are currently inhibiting these areas?
  • If we know who might benefit from our research, can we identify “what aspects of [our] research they are likely to be most interested in?” Could we make it even more relevant?
  • So, what changes could our research effect?
  • And do we know who would benefit and who we should guard against disadvantaging?

Please don’t leave these questions hanging in the air! I’m looking for answers, and I’m keen to engage with other researchers interested in similar issues in this curious world where musicology, book history and library history meet with legal deposit on the one hand, and individual music-makers on the other.  Do share your views!