Claiming Copyright in your Music

Music Copyright, the 18th/19th Century Way:

So you’re a composer in Regency Britain, say 1813, and you want to claim copyright inwriting-1043622_640 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.

unknown artist; King's College, Aberdeen
King’s College, Aberdeen
unknown artist
University of Aberdeen

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 Links page, 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!

Networking Fast and Furiously (Prestissimo)

Karen’s research persona is most active on Wednesdays and Thursday mornings, so a certain amount of networking has already taken place on Twitter, email and by phone this week.

Looking for role models, we’ve eagerly noted some highly successful ones – Sound Heritage, operating from the University of Southampton; The Ladies Magazine, at the University of Kent; and the new EAERN (Eighteenth-Century Arts Education Research Network) at the University of Glasgow.  All have an interest in eighteenth and nineteenth century culture, and all are great at networking, so we hope they’ll soon be our new best friends!

We’ve also been looking for conference CFPs, and have noted a new one which looks eminently suitable – Collage, Montage, Assemblage: Collected and Composite Forms, 1700-Present.  Taking place 18th-19th April 2018 in Edinburgh, a quick read of the conference’s scope makes the bound volumes of St Andrews’ Copyright Music Collection very appropriate artefacts to talk about!  An abstract is already being stitched together in mind, if not yet words on paper.  sewing GIF

Much of this week’s research time has been spent going through every word of the AHRC application, and listing every outcome that we aspired to in our documentation.  A beautiful spreadsheet has thus been born, and will be nurtured most carefully in coming months.  The newborn network has a number of conferences in its sightline, but we can’t run before we can walk, so we’ll check some dates and deadlines before we do anything else!

Meanwhile – if you like what you’ve seen here, please do follow the blog, befriend us on Twitter @ClaimedStatHall, get in touch with Karen by email at RCS or even pick up the phone!



18-19 April 2018

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 ….)

Networking and Meeting Folk

You might imagine that not a great deal is happening in the months leading up to a new networking initiative – but actually, quite a lot’s going on.  It’s just beneath the surface, like a duck paddling!

For example, yesterday I attended a meeting of librarians about collaborative collection management.  I was there with my librarian hat on.  (At this point, I must issue a health warning – be prepared for acronyms.  Librarianship is full of them!)  The meeting was followed by a workshop led by three colleagues from JISC.  It proved very interesting indeed – surprisingly interesting, since I imagined it was primarily for librarians whose collections are in Copac, and ours currently are not.  However, my interest was double-edged, because I could see that the application I was  being shown might actually be interesting to my researcher-self as well as in my role as a librarian.  What’s more, the facility clearly was of potential use to our library for stock management activities. Indeed, Copac will eventually be superceded by a newer, bigger database called the National Bibliographic Knowledgebase (still with JISC), and that could offer fresh opportunities again.  However, I digress.

Now, JISC exists to ‘provide digital solutions for UK education and research’.  As such, it is the organisation running Copac – the great union catalogue of British university, research and national library collections.  It’s one of my go-to websites in many contexts, both professional and scholarly – I couldn’t do what I do without it.  Yesterday, we were learning about CCM tools, which is a new initiative from Copac.  The abbreviation stands for Copac Collections Management.  It’s a little bit tricky to find (it comes under ‘Innovations’ on the Copac website), but it’s basically a tool for librarians managing their physical book-stock, not something many scholars would be spending time on.

CCM isn’t a completely perfect fit for what I would like to do – which is to compare the whole huge corpus of historical British legal deposit music across between nine and eleven research libraries – because it works best with batches of ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers), which hadn’t been invented in the Georgian era!  CCM does also work on subject headings, though these are probably more relevant for print books than for music, which isn’t always keyword-indexed in catalogues.

However, Georgian era music is listed in another online resource, RISM, which begs the question, do any libraries routinely apply RISM numbers to historic British music publications?  If this category of music had RISM numbers, a CCM-type search of vast series of RISM numbers would reveal where the historical legal deposit libraries had the most or least repertoire in common.

In short, the historical legal deposit music of the United Kingdom and Ireland represents a vast, vast amount of metadata, but it exists in various places. The question is, how to bring it all together to get meaningful results.  And that means big data, with a vengeance.  This is something I’d love to develop into a much larger project in the future, having seen the work that the British Library has already done using an even more massive corpus of music metadata in their own collection.

nature-1242617_640So what did I do yesterday?  I networked!  Potential networkers can be found in a wide variety of places – not just academic departments or university libraries.  We need people with technical skills every bit as much as we do researchers and librarians.

This morning, I sat down to deal with a few emails.  By lunchtime, I’d done most of what I intended to do, but felt somewhat uneasy that all I had to show for my morning was a series of carefully-worded emails.  Until the glorious realisation dawned on me that actually, what I’d been doing was exactly what I’m supposed to be doing – networking and making connections.  From that point of view, today has been well-spent.  I’m forging new contacts, and building upon existing relationships with other people whom I hope will share my enthusiasm for this new network.