My Article about a Remarkable Victorian Music Teacher: ‘An Extensive Musical Library: Mrs Clarinda Webster, LRAM’

Brio electronic archive for IAML(UK & Ireland) members

My latest article is on the IAML(UK & Ireland) website, in the members’ area, but paper copies will land on subscribers’ doormats and music library shelves this week! It’s about a strong and determined Victorian music teacher, who survived domestic abuse and made a remarkable career for herself – and I reveal her survey of music in Victorian public libraries, that I discovered literally by digging around online. (I’m rather pleased with this one – and it’s illustrated!)

Here are the details and the abstract:- 

McAulay, Karen E., ‘An Extensive Musical Library’: Mrs Clarinda Webster, LRAM, in Brio Vol.59 no.1, 29-42

Although there has been the perception that middling-class women’s lives were confined to domestic circles, there are plenty of examples that directly challenge this idea. The late Victorian Clarinda Augusta Webster ran a music school and a school for young ladies. She escaped domestic violence, overcame personal tragedy, and created a highly successful career first in Aberdeen and then in London. She published, gave talks, was active in professional circles, and travelled both to Europe and America. She also conducted a ground-breaking survey on music library provision in late nineteenth century Britain, delivering her findings to the Library Association. Although her report has not been traced in its entirety, many of its findings were reported in newspapers, enabling us to piece together the results of her investigations.  This article celebrates the sheer determination of a talented woman to make the most of her skills and create opportunities for advancement. It also demonstrates the perceived importance of music in wider late Victorian life. 

It should be possible to read this Brio article in a music library somewhere near you, and it will also eventually appear on the RCS research repository (Pure). But if you can’t get sight of a copy, please feel free to message me and I’ll share the proofs.

Music in Victorian Public Libraries? Why, yes!

This remarkable Aberdeen music teacher, in 1894, was collating info about music libraries for the Library Association! I’ve done a bit of research and shall be publishing an article in Brio, hopefully in summer 2022. The lady was more remarkable than even this newscutting suggests, and her biography is – though I say it myself – quite something! But I won’t pre-empt the big reveal – all will become clear next year!

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 … !

A Christmas Delivery: Article in Journal of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society

With impeccable festive timing, two copies of the latest EBS journal popped through my door this morning. The first article is mine, a major output from my research for the AHRC-funded Claimed From Stationers Hall network, for which I won grant-funding a couple of years ago.

‘A Music Library for St Andrews: use of the University’s Copyright Music Collections, 1801-1849’, in Journal of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society no.15 (2020), pp.13-33. The final proof copy is uploaded on Pure, our RCS institutional repository, though it won’t be visible to the naked eye until the input has been authorised, so you won’t be able to see it straight away.


The author’s researches into the Copyright Music Collection at the University of St Andrews led, inevitably, to the Library’s Receipt Books, in which all loans were recorded, whether to professors, students, or “Strangers” – friends of the professors who borrowed under the names of obliging academic staff.

Several thousand pages later, every music loan between 1801 and 1849 has now been logged.  Notwithstanding the difficulties of inferring much detail from over 400 Sammelbände (ie, bound collections of multiple items), there are still many interesting observations to be made.

This paper explores findings to date, outlining the progress of the author’s research into a field in which music and library history meet, thereby shedding light on early nineteenth century musical activities in a small university town.

Sion College: a Postscript

I have just learned that Anna James, who was for a few years cataloguer at Lambeth Palace Library, wrote her University College London Masters Thesis on Sion College’s history, in 2007.  Part of the dissertation became a paper given to CILIP’s Library and Information History Group in 2013, and that section formed the basis of an online paper on Anna’s Academia page.  Although music isn’t mentioned in this version, we nonetheless learn an enormous amount about the college, so this is a valuable contribution to the field.  I’ll add a link to our network bibliography at the earliest opportunity.

(It’s worth noting that Mr Greenhill (of Stationers’ Hall) sent lists of new publications to all the legal deposit libraries, and Sion College’s lists are still extant, like those at some of the other libraries.  But Sion’s music – as I’ve already noted – is long gone!)

Sion College Library: Vade fac similiter, by Anna James (2016)

(You do need to sign up to Academia to be able to download the pdf – however, there’s no need to populate your new account with your own writings if you don’t wish to!)

Image sourced from Lambeth Palace’s website.

A Labour of Love for Miss Lambert

The story of a very early female music cataloguer at the University of St Andrews

by Dr Karen E McAulay, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland


Prior to her marriage to George Williams, Elizabeth Lambert (1789-1875) produced a handwritten catalogue of the University of St Andrews legal deposit music collection, which was accumulated by legal entitlement from the 1790s to 1836. Elizabeth was paid a nominal sum (one shilling) for producing the first catalogue volume in 1826, and continued adding to it, commencing a second volume which someone else presumably completed after she married and moved to London in 1832. [1]  This youthful involvement with the University of St Andrews’ Library music collection is more significant, and had a more far-reaching effect, than has hitherto been recognised, for her catalogue would have significantly contributed to the use and enjoyment of the University Library’s music collection.  Her subsequent married life in London is minimally documented.

This article would have been added to the Wikipedia Wiki Project, Women in Red, which is promoting entries about women to redress the current male/female balance; however, since the present narrative is based on new research – and there are no books with biographical details of Miss Lambert – it does not fit into the remit of that admirable project.


Born in 1789, the year of the French Revolution, Elizabeth Lambert was the firstborn child of clergyman, Revd. Josias Lambert and Dorothea Lambert (née Rotherham).  She was christened in St Mary’s Parish Church in Lancaster (Lancashire) on 13 June 1789. [2]  Two brothers and two sisters followed in close succession, the youngest being born a few months after their father’s death in 1799.  Their widowed mother sold their Yorkshire home, Badger Hall in Burneston, to Col. W R L Serjeantson that year, [3]  and relocated the family to St Andrews in Scotland.  There, they lived with her brother, Professor John Rotherham, until he died in 1804.

House in South Court, South Street, St Andrews [2016-08-31]
House in South Court, South Street, St Andrews
Elizabeth’s mother originally hailed from Northumbria, but remained living in a house at South Court, South Street in St Andrews until her death in 1839. [4]  Both of Elizabeth’s sisters died at St Andrews in childhood.

1849 South Street House formerly belonging to Miss Lambert for sale by public roup, Fife Herald

Teens and young adulthood

South Court from South Street, St Andrews
South Court from South Street, St Andrews

Elizabeth’s brothers attended the University, making use of the library facilities, but Elizabeth and her mother were also able to borrow from the library through the good offices of professorial friends. Elizabeth borrowed widely:- books on conchology, botany and horticulture, divinity and travel, as well as novels and music, and she continued to borrow on a visit to Scotland after her marriage. [5]

She borrowed sacred and secular vocal music – returning to borrow Mozart’s Masses more than once, and also enjoying operatic arias, and Irish, Scottish and Welsh songs – as well as piano music and piano duets.  Instrumental music seems to have attracted her – one such book that she borrowed contained concertos, harp and guitar music as well a piano instructor by Cramer, and this wasn’t the only instrumental volume to have appealed to her. She also enjoyed a music journal called The Harmonicon, which enjoyed a brief but very popular run from 1823-33, and borrowed a book about Haydn and Mozart.

Elizabeth’s interest in conchology went beyond reading about the subject, for she was cited in several textbooks for having identified a particular shell (Patella elongata) in Professor John Fleming’s cabinet collection in 1814. [6]

Elizabeth built up a shell collection of her own, giving her collection of British and foreign shells to the Natural History Society of Northumbria in 1873 (foreign shells) and 1874 (British and foreign shells).  The Society still has a record of her donation, although the collection has been integrated into their own larger collection and can no longer be identified. [7]

Involvement with the University of St Andrews Library

Elizabeth’s uncle John Rotherham had taken responsibility for organising an earlier book catalogue in the library, though it is unlikely that he would have done the cataloguing himself.  Nonetheless, his interest, added to Elizabeth’s interest in conchology, does suggest a family disposition towards organising and codifying things!

Sederunt Dr Buist Rector, Principal Haldane, Drs Hunter, J. Hunter, Jackson and Briggs. University Library 29th August 1826. “There was laid upon the Table by the Rector a Manuscript Catalogue of the Music belonging to the Library made out by Miss Lambert.  The Rector was requested to convey to her the thanks of the University for the great pains she had been at in making it out.   [signed] Geo. Buist Rector. [8]

It is probably worth noting, as an aside, that 1826 was also the year in which the University of St Andrews published a proper catalogue of the entire library holdings – excluding the music, that is!  See their Catalogus librorum in Bibliotheca Universitatis Andreanae, secundum literarum ordinem dispositus online via the Wellcome Collection website.  (I noticed that the library had the 1788-93 edition of Linnaeus’ Systema naturae, a book which would have enabled Elizabeth to identify that sea-shell in Professor Fleming’s cabinet: “Patella Elongata”, aka “Ansates Pellucida” is none other than a special kind of limpet …)

Although Elizabeth was paid for cataloguing the St Andrews University copyright (legal deposit) music in 1826, the second catalogue book continued to be added to, presumably by someone else and with rather less care after she had married and moved away, until a change in legislation meant that the Library ceased to claim legal deposit books in 1836, instead being awarded a book budget, in common with the other Scottish universities.

Entries in the borrowing registers for 16 October 1827 and 22 May 1828 record Elizabeth taking music ‘to be arranged’, which can be interpreted as an involvement in assembling the music into usable volumes which would then be bound by a commercial bindery. [9]  Different volumes were compiled for instrumental music, piano music, songs, harp music and so on.


Elizabeth married George Williams in Islington in 1832, where they lived with his mother and brothers. [10] They had no children. George died in Halton Street Islington in 1853. [11]   Elizabeth Williams died at 18 Well-Walk Hampstead, Middlesex, 23 years later on 16 February, 1875. [12]   There is very little documentation of her life after her marriage.

Significance of Elizabeth’s Music Catalogue

Elizabeth was clearly not a University employee, but was nonetheless entrusted with the task of compiling this catalogue of the music, listing the contents of each numbered bound volume.  This is very early documented evidence indeed, of a woman being involved in any way with the organisation of a university library sub-collection. Contributing factors are likely to have been the fact that she was a niece of a deceased professor who, himself, had taken an interest in the library, and also the fact that families and friends were entitled to borrow from the entire collection through association with the professors.  Her reading matter shows her to have been an educated woman, and the library’s borrowing records [13] provide ample evidence of both unmarried and married women making use of the music collection – a category in which some of the other legal deposit libraries seemingly took little enough interest for much of the nineteenth century.

Elizabeth’s catalogue was hardly a detailed bibliography, generally listing only composer and title, and sometimes conflating several linked separate publications into one entry. There are occasional spelling errors, which led researcher Elizabeth Ann Frame to suggest that Miss Lambert was dictating entries to another individual.  [14]. This cannot be conclusively proven either way.  Nonetheless, it would have been very difficult for readers to select music with any degree of precision until the catalogue was written, presumably instead reliant on serendipity, or searching out the latest bound volumes back from the bindery.

Indeed, in this context Miss Lambert’s catalogue represents a kind of endorsement of the University of the value that they attributed to their music collection, since the catalogue facilitated the use of the entire music collection by professors, a few quite young male undergraduates, and friends and family of the professors.  There is evidence of the catalogue itself being borrowed by a few keen male borrowers, whether for their own perusal or for consultation by their family or friends, and the music collection was heavily borrowed during the first four decades of the nineteenth century.

  • The present website is that of the British AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) funded postdoctoral network, Claimed From Stationers Hall, which supported further research into legal deposit music collections across Georgian Britain.  This research followed on from the present author’s research at the University of St Andrews Library, which has excellent archival documentation to support a well-organised collection.
  • If you have enjoyed this posting, you might also like to read about another Library reader from St Andrews – Professor Playfair and his family.   He appears in another article about the Claimed From Stationers’ Hall network, on the Library’s Echoes From the Vault website.
  • And there’s more!  A boarding school proprietress, and her three teacher daughters, also made use of the library.  You can read about Mrs Bertram on another network blog, this time curated by EAERN (Eighteenth-Century Arts Education Research Network): Mrs Bertram’s Music Borrowing: Reading Between the Lines.
  1. University of St Andrews Library Muniments UYLY108/1 – Music Catalogue, 1826
  2. See
  3. British History Online 
  4. Dorothea’s obituary appeared in The Gentleman’s Magazine and the Perthshire Courier.  She was described as the widow of the late Rev Josias Lambert, M.A., of Camp-hill Yorkshire.  South Court, her address off South Street in St Andrews, is now passed by visitors to the famous Byre Theatre.
  5. University of St Andrews Muniments UYLY 206/8 (1821-1832)
  6. Professor John Fleming was a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and was later cited by Darwin (not in connection with shells). ArchivesHub describes him as Scotland’s first zoologist. An ordained minister, he was also appointed as a professor at Aberdeen in 1834.  Edinburgh University holds his papers.
  7. Transactions of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham, and Newcastle upon Tyne. Vol.5 p.368. [List of donations], A collection of British and Foreign Shells. Mrs Elizabeth Williams, Well Walk Hampstead. 
  8. Senate Minutes, University of St Andrews Muniments UY452/14/145 University Library 29 August 1826.
  9. University of St Andrews Muniments UYLY 206/8 (1821-1832)
  10. 13 September 1832: ‘George Williams, of the Parish of St Mary, Islington, married by Rev Dr Haldane, Principal of St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews’. Old Parochial Register, St Andrews and St Leonards, via Scotland’s People
  11. 25 February 1853. British Newspapers Online at  NB Halton Street became Halton Road in 1863/65.  See Eric A. Willats, Streets with a Story1986, digital version 2018.
  12. Probate. Effects under £6000.  The Will with a Codicil of Elizabeth Williams late of 18 Well-walk Hampstead in the County of Middlesex Widow who died 16 February 1875 at 18 Well-walk was proved at the Principal Registry by Henry Cardew a Major in the Royal Artillery stationed with his Battery at Newhaven and Thomas Francis Leadbitter of 158 Leadenhall-Street in the City of London Gentlemen the Executors. Ancestry England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995.
  13. University of St Andrews Muniments UYLY206/5 (1801-16), UYLY 206/6 (1814-19), UYLY 206/7 (1817-21), UYLY 206/8 (1821-1832)
  14. Elizabeth Ann Frame, ‘The Copyright Collection of Music in the University Library, St Andrews: a brief account’, in Edinburgh Bibliographical Society Transactions, Vol.5, issue 4 (1985), pp.1-9


Networking with Other Networks: CILIP LIHG: Finding the Women in Library & Information History (CFP)

Another call for papers, spotted on social media this morning …


Recommended! Tall Tales: Secrets of the Tower

Eves, Reginald Grenville, 1876-1941; Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960), PRIBA, OM, RA, RGM
Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Tower architect – image from RIBA/ArtUK

Here’s a fantastic webpage devoted to the exhibition that Cambridge University Library mounted last year.  It’s an excellent read, and I’ve got the link saved for addition to the next update of our network music legal deposit bibliography.  But I can’t wait to share it with you, so here it is – for your mindful enjoyment:-

(I confess, I have just sauntered via the Amazon page to buy Stephen Fry’s novel, The Liar (2004) for my Kindle.  It’s set in the University Library.  But that’s for leisure reading, so I must leave it aside for a while!)

Yes, Librarians Sometimes Stamp Books … Always Have Done (a historical note)


Ask any librarian: the number of, “I guess you must stamp a lot of books” jokes are nearly as many as “How lovely to spend all your time reading …”.  They drive us insane!

However, when it comes to library history, book-stamps become almost interesting, because the use of one library property stamp or another may shed light on when a book came into the library.  So you begin to see where I’m coming from, when I say that I requested photographs of bindings and any stamps or ownership marks in the music and minstrelsy I’d traced at King’s Inns.

Unfortunately, whilst Edinburgh and St Andrews University Libraries stamped their textbooks if they were “From Stationers’ Hall”, this wasn’t always the case with music – certainly not in St Andrews, and apparently not generally in Edinburgh – and it turned out not to be the case at all in King’s Inns!

Unless a stamp actually SAYS that the book came from Stationers’ Hall, then its only use for book detectives is in the possibility of linking particular stamps with particular timespans.  In King’s Inns, a handful of books yielded three different stamps, but only one bore a date – 1955 – and that just means it was processed in some way at that time. It doesn’t tell us when the book came into the library.  Similarly, whilst I was looking for evidence of library bindings or provenance notes, there wasn’t really enough to go on.  And I say that because we don’t actually know if these items came by the Stationers’ Hall route, where unbound books were quite common, or by nineteenth century donation.

Crosby – The Irish Musical Repository. Pictures all courtesy of King’s Inns Library.

What we do know, however, is that the majority of this little batch of King’s Inns minstrelsy, whether poetry or with music, was classed in the “Literary” section.  One can only conclude that these were for recreational use – I like the mental picture of a Georgian or Victorian lawyer sitting by his fireside with his feet up, and a copy of Motherwell’s Minstrelsy, Crosby’s The Irish Musical Repository (the spine title is just, “Crosby’s Irish Songs”, in what looks like a twentieth century binding) , Bunting’s A General Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland, or Ritson’s A Select Collection of English Songs (2nd edition, 1813) on his lap.  Some are graced with charming engravings, whilst Clementi’s London edition of the Bunting collection has a particularly nice title-page.  This last title was held by almost every legal deposit library, so there’s more chance of that one being a legal deposit arrival, especially since one would have expected the original Irish edition to be a more likely holding than a later, English one. However, even in this case, we cannot say for sure that it arrived by this route.  Donations to the library were very common in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  At the end of the day, the minstrelsy material is probably more of interest as indicative of nineteenth-century readers’ leisure reading, than as evidence of traffic from Mr Greenhill and the network of London legal deposit agents!

My thanks to the time-consuming and painstaking work of staff at King’s Inns Libraries for taking these photographs for me.

Footnote: There was one pedagogical music item which seems to have been missing at least since the 1990s, but possibly a century or more longer: Charles Mason’s, The Rhythm, or, Times of Musical Compositions Explained and Reduced…  a skinny score, it could have fallen victim to any number of fates, but it means we couldn’t examine it for library stamps or indeed anything else!  Whether misshelved, bound in a bigger volume, or unreturned, let’s hope someone benefited from it first, and that one of the Dublin lawyers or their families gained a suitable understanding of musical rhythm and times!