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.