To say that an expert on the Aberdeen copyright music collection lives less than fifteen miles away from my mother in Norfolk sounds too coincidental to be true. But retired special collections cataloguer Richard Turbet does indeed live in Holt, which is where we met this morning. A small market town, buildings faced with traditional Norfolk flints, it wears its age well, many of the properties as old as the music we had met to talk about.
Richard was able to tell me the names of some people who had worked with him, or just after him, when he was occupied cataloguing the University of Aberdeen’s old legal deposit music online, in the days when original cataloguing was more usual, and dowloaded records were just becoming a possibility. The names of cataloguers and university librarians now retired, served to remind me that the histories of collections have a lineage leading right up to the present day. Time didn’t just stand still after the tide of historical copyright music stopped flowing to the Scottish university libraries.
Richard also confirmed an interesting difference between the bound collections of music in Aberdeen and St Andrews. The latter were at least roughly categorized before binding. However, Aberdeen’s collections were apparently completely randomly bound. We also know that, unlike the steady borrowing of music from St Andrews’ University Library, access to the library at King’s College was so severely restricted at that time, that any borrowing would have been limited, still less of the musical collection. (If there are loan records, I urgently need to find out about them and to seek them out!)
This was a thoroughly enjoyable, as well as an informative meeting. Driving back through heavy showers, I was largely oblivious to the weather. I had a pageful of notes to think about and follow up, and the possibility of further future contact. The Aberdeen-Norfolk connection is indeed a good thing, and I’m delighted to have made contact again after a gap of several years.
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.
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.)
In historical musicological research, sometimes apparently inconsequential names assume disproportionate importance. This was the fate of Caleb Concord this week. Apparently a contributor to the Aberdeen Censor – a journal which only lasted 13 months from January 1824 to January 1825, Dominie (schoolmaster) Concord submitted his autobiography in four lengthy letters, and in one of them, he opined that the Marischal students should be more concerned about what had happened to the Stationers’ Hall music.
This raised more questions than answers. I went to read the journal at the National Library of Scotland. Concord appears several times in the journal, including a couple of letters to the editor, quite apart from his autobiographical contributions. The pieces are very tongue in cheek (viz, his wives’ names, their characterisation – and a flattened cat!). His name also appears in another contemporary Aberdonian book by someone else delighting in not one but two pseudonyms (a common enjoyment in the 1820s). But you won’t find Concord in genealogical or newspaper sources online, and I’ve been fortunate to have made contact with perhaps the only person who could immediately provide an identification. Behind the pseudonym lurked a very real person, but not the person I thought!
Concord claimed to be a good singer and piper, teacher not only in school but also of songs and psalmody on Thursday nights!, and a kirk session clerk. Last week, I conjectured that he could have been the schoolmaster of Footdee and session clerk of St Nicholas Parish, one William Smith, in the 1824 Aberdeen post office directory, maybe even a brother of the publisher, bookseller Lewis Smith. I was completely wrong! Iain Beavan has generously provided a positive identification, which we’ll divulge in due course. Whether ‘Concord’ was musical remains to be seen!
Now, one might ask whether his identity actually matters one iota?!
The most important thing about “Caleb Concord” is his observation about the Marischal students, and it’s intriguing because at that time, the Marischal students had virtually no access either to their own college library or to the library of King’s College Aberdeen – and it was King’s College that received the Stationers’ Hall legal deposit materials. Last year, Iain Beavan wrote a fascinating article, ‘Marischal College Library, Aberdeen, in the Nineteenth Century: an Overview’, in Library and Information History 31:4 (258-279). It is clear that students in the early to mid 19th century had a very raw deal as far as libraries were concerned, and the animosity between the two colleges extended for many decades on account of King’s College’s determination to keep hold of the legal deposit books.
What we do know, from Barry Cooper and Richard Turbet’s bibliographical work on the Aberdeen early music holdings, is that not much survives from before 1801, and some 4000 items survive from after this. Iain Beavan has found reference to the possibility that some of the Stationers’ Hall music might have been sold, and that’s a matter of some interest. Certainly, the debate was raging about legal deposit holdings in Aberdeen, and it is not surprising that the public debate should be referred to in a local journal.
So you’re a composer in Regency Britain, say 1813, and you want to claim copyright in your music. What do you do? Well, if you have a publisher, they might submit it to Stationers’ Hall, where it would be registered. They might not, though. (Some publishers thought they’d have the best of both worlds – they’d print a copyright statement to the effect that it had been entered at Stationers’ Hall, but they wouldn’t actually bother doing so.) In any event, it’s a bit hit or miss.
If you’re self-publishing, then you might consider it in your own interest to register your copyright in the work. After all, by now it’s at least accepted that composers’ work did count as intellectual property and deserved protection. That wasn’t necessarily the case in the mid-18th century!
Copies of music registered at Stationers’ Hall would then be sent to all the legal deposit libraries – the British Museum (which became the British Library), Sion College in London, the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Aberdeen and Trinity College Dublin, the Advocates’ Library (which became the National Library of Scotland), and Kings’ Inns, also in Dublin. Whether the music gets to all these places is also a bit hit or miss! It’s not always sent, not always kept methodically upon arrival, and some libraries don’t want all this music anyway.
Tracing It Today
The Claimed from Stationers Hall project sets out to find out more about what happened to all the Stationers’ Hall music. This is Week 2 of the network’s existence, so you’ve come in right at the start. If you’re interested in early music publishing, library history, or the social, cultural side of the music borrowed from these libraries, then this network is right up your street. Please follow this blog, and the Twitter @ClaimedStatHall, and do let us know if you’re working on anything in any way related to this repertoire!
St Andrews and now Aberdeen
Karen has spent some time exploring the rich archival resources at the University of St Andrews, where the Stationers’ Hall music was sifted through, much was catalogued, and then it was eagerly borrowed by a number of people via the professors’ library memberships. We can trace what was received, find it in a fascinating handwritten catalogue, and even observe who borrowed what.
But what of the other libraries? This week, the magnifying glass focused on the parallel collection in Aberdeen. Work has been done on the documentation of what was received by the library in the 18th century by former librarian and research scholar Richard Turbet, and we can now see what was received in these early years, even if it doesn’t all survive today. (Turbet, ‘Music Deposited by Stationers’ Hall at the Library of the University and King’s College of Aberdeen, 1753-96′, RMA Research Chronicle 30 (1997) pp.139-162)
Roughly half of the surviving copyright music is now in the online catalogue there: at the time of writing, 2062 of an approximate 4400 items in the entire bound Stationers Hall Music collection. How was it used by the community in contemporary Aberdeen, though? The next question is to establish where there are comparable loan records to those in St Andrews. We do know, through Richard Turbet’s work, that there were concerns as to what had happened to the Stationers’ Hall music, in the Aberdeen Censor of 1826. Intriguing!
Catalogues and Conundrums
The union catalogue of UK University and national libraries makes it easy to trace most things so long as they have been catalogued online. However, differences in cataloguing mean that it’s not always as easy as you’d think. Take Gesualdo Lanza’s Elements of Singing in the Italian and English Styles.
Different cataloguing approaches make it a little difficult to untangle, but if you search Lanza, Elements of Singing, you retrieve 16 entries, one of which is just a print portrait. It was published in 1813 – different catalogues have it self-published, published by Button and Whittaker, or indeed printed and sold by Chappell. Around 1819-20, an abridged version appeared, again by Chappell (though the catalogue records don’t all state this the same way), and apparently again in 1826.
So there are at least two if not three basic versions, and you’d expect them each to appear in all the copyright libraries? Think again! Differently styled catalogue records reveal copies of the 1813 publication in Glasgow, St Andrews, Aberdeen, the British Library and Oxford Bodleian, and a copy in York, which was not a copyright library. The other legal deposit libraries don’t have it, unless it’s still not catalogued online. (That’s another interesting question. Some pre-1801 material is definitely not yet catalogued – grant-funding for retro-conversion theoretically took care of (most of) the post 1801 material, just over a decade ago.) In total, the two or three versions of 1813, 1820 and perhaps 1826 yield 16 entries in Copac, which equates to slightly more than 16 copies.
This Was Week 2 of the Project
Besides looking at work already done on the Aberdeen collection, this week has also entailed documentation of some of the conferences and other networks that touch upon the subject of Regency music or library history – see our Useful Linkspage, and do please contact us if there are others we’ve missed! And of course, we’ve been networking. We’ve tweeted and we’ve emailed, and we’re loving the responses we’ve received. Keep in touch!
I’ve recently spent a few days assessing a departmental music collection in St Andrews. I had 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.
Is 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!
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!