Caleb Concord! What kind of Pseudonym is that?

Auld, Patrick Campbell, 1813-1866; The Demolition of Marischal College
Demolition of Marischal, 1837 Painting by Patrick Campbell Auld, from

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 raises more questions than answers.  I went to read the journal at the National Library of Scotland.  Mr Concord appears several times in the journal, including a couple of letters to the editor, quite apart from his autobiographical contributions.  His wives’ names, and their characterisation, all suggest the pieces are tongue in cheek and that he might be a real person contributing a rather fictional account under a pseudonym.  His name also appears in another contemporary Aberdonian book by someone else delighting in not one but two pseudonyms (a very common enjoyment in the 1820s).  Concord certainly doesn’t appear in genealogical or newspaper sources online.  The pseudonym would be appropriate for someone who claimed to be a good singer and piper, teacher not only in school but also of songs and psalmody on Thursday nights!, and he may also have been a kirk session clerk.

So, who was he? Possibly a brother of the publisher, bookseller Lewis Smith?  There was indeed the schoolmaster of Footdee and session clerk of St Nicholas Parish, one William Smith, in the 1824 Aberdeen post office directory.  Although this could be a complete red herring!

At this point, we do have to stop and ask whether his identity actually matters one iota!

Aberdeen Censor illustration rotated
Illustration at front of Aberdeen Censor

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 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 neither library was very accessible to students, 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.  Beavan makes no mention of the music, though!

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.  Why “Caleb Concord” should mention music in particular, unless he himself is a musician and can’t get his hands on what he knows is there, is a mystery.  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.

Remember his name, though.  Who knows?  We might yet unearth a positive identification, though not much more time will be spent on the conundrum for now!

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 ….)

Researching at The Bodleian Library, Oxford (by Brianna Robertson, reblogged here)

I am reblogging Brianna Robertson’s observations about binding of songs at the Bodleian and British Libraries.  These are really interesting, and just what the Claimed From Stationers’ Hall project might be interested in pursuing. All part of the rich story of what happened to the legal deposit music once it had been registered at Stationers’ Hall and made its way to its ultimate destinations.

Research Adventures

Today was my first ever visit to The Bodleian Library at The University of Oxford. Special Collections has recently moved from what is known as The ‘Old’ Bodleian to The Weston Library aka The ‘New’ Bodleian, which I am assuming is a building much better suited for our modern needs and modern conservation. However, while The Weston Library is architecturally very beautiful, I didn’t quite get that magical feeling as I might have walking into an ancient space, housing the world’s knowledge, which is represented in The ‘Old’ Bodleian. Then again, the new space is open and light, making it feel quite inviting for first time visitors.

Despite being very organised with all of my documentation and even emailing ahead with details about the music I wanted to see as well as the time, date and double checking the documentation I needed (the admissions officer commended me on my organisation – something I very proud of, I must say!), the admission…

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The AHRC-funded Claimed from Stationers’ Hall network commences in August 2017.  As planning progresses, more will appear on this blog.

Professor Playfair was Principal of the University of St Andrews.  He had a piano, and there’s plenty of evidence of a musically active family: he, and later, his sons in military retirement, all made heavy use of the copyright music collection at the University.  Library borrowing records tell us exactly what the men of the family borrowed, whilst the young Janet Playfair’s journal pages refer to a lively interest in music, both practically and as listener.  She may also have borrowed music as the prematurely widowed Mrs James Macdonald.  Her married sister Jean, Mrs Playfair of Dalmarnock, alluded in her 1807 journal (illustrated above) to music at a friend’s house, and a trip to hear the famous Madame Catalani, violinist Janiewicz, and Morelli, a comic singer and actor.  However, as the family grew, she seems to have had very little time for music, commenting instead either on domesticity and family matters, or current affairs.

The niece of one of the Principal’s colleagues was later to catalogue the University’s music collection – her two catalogue books survive to this day, and indeed, were occasionally borrowed by the professors – presumably to assist with their music selection!  The music, along with the catalogues and borrowing records, enable us to form a richly nuanced impression of music-making in a rather remote University town.  This is the impetus for the present project, seeking to unearth the stories lurking behind the music in other UK copyright library collections.