Edinburgh Excitement!

Our friends at Edinburgh University Library’s Centre for Research Collections have been Edinburgh Treble Clefcataloguing their historical music collections, and it was with great excitement that I found these Excel spreadsheets online this evening!  Looking at the Reid Concert Hall Cupboard sequence, I found Thomas Hamley Butler’s Gin a body meet a body – a piano rondo from 1810.  It was registered at Stationers’ Hall on 13 April that year.  It’s very late at night, so I didn’t keep looking, but this certainly entices me to look much, much more closely.  Extraordinary useful lists, and fabulously fun!

KB Excel)
(Oh, I just found another Stationers’ Hall piece. Haley’s Le Dilettante d’Auvignon. Someone, stop me …..)

Pixis and his Hommage to Clementi

johann_peter_pixis_by_august_kneiselDuring the reign of King George IV, Johann Peter Pixis wrote his Hommage a Clementi, a set of piano variations on ‘God Save the King’, op.101.  Published in 1828 by S. Chappell, and also distributed by Henry Lemoine, copies went to all the copyright libraries.  As I’m transcribing each item on the two Advocates’ Library music lists, I’m looking to see where copies survived, and it’s rare to trace such near-complete coverage as I did with this piece.   Playing my game of ‘Happy Families’ with the list dated March 8th, 1830, I checked off an almost complete set still extant, in Aberdeen, St Andrews, Glasgow, Oxford, Cambridge and the British Library.  Clearly, variations on ‘God Save the King’ were generally considered worth keeping.  Indeed, St Andrews and Cambridge each hold two copies.  The popularity of the tune is corroborated in a recent book, Taking it to the Bridge: Music as performance, edited by Nicholas Cook and Richard Pettengill, p.114. 

Were the Advocates selling theirs?  Moreover, who knows what happened to the copy that presumably also went to the University of Edinburgh (aka ‘Edinburgh College’)? As for Sion College – I haven’t started investigating what happened to their music, yet.  I hope to visit my counterparts in Lambeth Palace soon, but my travel plans are a bit up in the air at the moment …

Pixis Variations op.101
“Difficult and devoid of interest” – Harmonicon, 1828

After several hours of transcribing grey, enlarged camera photos, I thought it might be fun to play this apparently desirable score.  It’s lucky I was able to visit Glasgow University Library, because a quick search online didn’t turn up a digitised copy.  Admittedly, I didn’t look very hard.  However, I did find a review of the piece in The Harmonicon of 1828, the music magazine which was enormously popular with library users in St Andrews!  Two of Pixis’ sets of variations are reviewed.  Do I really want to bother with something fit only for ‘crazy amateurs of Vienna’,  or nimble-fingered pianists with no judgement? 

I did find a rather dull piano rondo online …  but then again, his Double Concerto for violin and piano in F# minor is rather lovely! So who knows?

Storify: Wunderkind, Johann Peter Pixis

This posting sparked a veritable Twitter storm of enthusiastic commentary from German musicians and musicologists.  I have saved the entire conversation as a Storify story, involving Clara Wieck, Scottish tunes and variations, piano prodigies and virtuosi, frothy ephemeral music and the abovementioned lovely concerto.  Read on!

  • https://storify.com/karenmca/a-pixis-fixation
  • This is a link to an impromptu SoundCloud recording.  Some will say I have no shame.  My argument is that an average amateur pianist sight-reading the introduction to Pixis’ Hommage a Clementiin a chilly November Edinburgh house, would probably have sounded no better!  I promise to work at it ….
    Pixis Hommage a Clementi TP
    Title page of Hommage a Clementi, by Pixis. Image from copy in Glasgow University Library Collection, with thanks.

When Less is More and More is Less

This may sound as though I’m speaking in riddles.  Truly, I’m not!

I alluded in my earlier posting today to the question of “When less is more”, in the context of the apparently minimal amount of Stationers’ Hall music surviving at Edinburgh University Library, and how I was forced to look at the little that was there, in quite a close focus.

But I still have copies of those lists of music in the National Library of Scotland.  So, on the one hand, we have very little of the music surviving in what was then “Edinburgh College”.  On the other hand, we have lists of music from the Advocates Library in 1830, but we don’t know what the purpose of the lists was.

I’ve started to transcribe these lists – only a few pages, but interesting nonetheless.  But, how do I rationalise to other people just why they’re interesting?  And this is why:-

If I can establish which of these pieces actually SURVIVED in different libraries, then I get a snapshot view – fragmented and  blurred, admittedly – of which libraries retained more, or less, and I can see if certain categories were more likely to survive at that time, shortly before the legal deposit system was radically reduced.  Yes, it means another spreadsheet.  But I still think there may be something interesting to unearth.  Watch this space!

And yes, I do still need to establish whether there is music surviving but not yet catalogued online. I know about some of the libraries, but not absolutely clearly for all of them.  That’s why I’m making my visits around the country!





Music Sold and Music Held

2017-11-01 14.38.44-1

Yesterday was spent in Edinburgh, examining an armful of old bound music volumes in Edinburgh University Library. These are the volumes with “Edinburgh College from Stationers Hall” stamps – possibly NOT the only legal deposit survivors, but potentially the only identifiable ones at present.  They also stand as a reminder that one should not leap to conclusions – every picture can be looked at from different angles and in different lights.  So, we can’t – at present – say that the Edinburgh professors retained no instrumental music, but we do know that they kept some sacred music, some national songs, and a rather turgid-looking tome on the thorough bass.  Other items could perhaps be bound in other volumes, unmarked and unrecognised – there isn’t a neatly ordered sequence of reasonably categorised copyright music, as in St Andrews, or a neatly ordered sequence of randomly-bound pieces, as in Aberdeen.

The instructional volume was A. F. C. Kollmann’s, A second practical guide to thorough bass. (It was printed for the author, who lived at Friary, St James’s Palace, in 1807, and was available either from Kollmann or “the principal music shops”),  initialled by Kollmann on the title page.  A similar copy in Copac is described as a “library copy”, which I think probably means it was a legal deposit copy.  Kollmann was Organist of His Majesty’s German Chapel at St James, and this was the sequel to an earlier guide.  It was dedicated to Her Royal Highness Princess Sophia Matilda.  (How fortunate she was!)  The bound volume contains further delights in the form of his Twelve Analysed Fugues, not to mention his Rondo on the Chord of the Diminished Seventh, and The melody of the hundredth psalm, with examples and directions for an hundred different harmonies, in four parts … op.9.  The final Kollmann item in this book is An air from Handel’s lessons, with nine variations for the piano forte.  There are numerous sacred pieces, not by Kollmann, but someone evidently felt there was room for a few more items before they sent Sacred Music Vol.1 (Shelfmark R.5) off to be bound.

I also saw a curious mishmash of an oratorio – a sad, bedraggled specimen by William Gardiner, who compiled Judah, a sacred oratorio in score, written, composed, and adapted to the works of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven (London: printed for the author and sold by Clementi, Birchall, Preston, Goulding, Chappell, & The Harmonic Institution &c, [1821]).  It’s a full score, with brief instrumental interludes between larger choral sections, but strangely enough, the instrumental parts are not printed in score format, but one under another – they’d have had to be copied out.  One wonders whether it ever saw the light of day after reaching the library – is it bedraggled through heavy use, or has it suffered a lengthy period of neglect in the past?!  It is now at Shelfmark R.1, if you want to seek it out!

When less is more

When there’s apparently not much to look at, the only answer is to look more closely.  I noted what was in each of the volumes, and a few key dates, establishing that the music all dates from the first three decades of the nineteenth century.  I look for patterns of content, date or publisher, and when I’ve time, I check to see how many other libraries still have the same music.

The survival of several national song collections yet again confirm the popularity of this genre – Popular National Airs by Moore, Bunting’s A general Collection of the ancient music of Ireland, Kitchiner’s Loyal and National Songs of England and his The Sea Songs of England , and English-published collections of German and Russian songs – Arnim’s A Selection of Germany National Melodies, and the anonymous  The Russian Troubadour.  They’re interesting, not just as legal deposit specimens, but because of their paratextual commentary, revealing early 19th century views of English music – or, often, perceptions that the English had no national music!

It was strange turning the pages of these books and finding the same view emerging from three different authors, one after another.  In 1818, Moore’s advertisement began,

“It is Cicero, I believe, who says “natura ad modos ducimur;” and the abundance of wild, indigenous airs, which almost every country, except England, possesses, sufficient proves the truth of this assertion.”

Only a couple of years earlier (1814-16), Arnim’s dissertation, “On National Music” goes through the national characteristics of a number of countries, until we reach England on page 4.  Reader, there is good reason why the English have no national music – we’re apparently too busy!

“England may perhaps be said not to possess any national music at all. There are, no doubt, songs, yet it would be very difficult to recognise by them the character of the nation. To find out the cause of this singular phenomenon, in such a celebrated and great nation, will prove an interesting enquiry.” 

It goes on, describing how national music reflects national character, and how English songs,  “appear gay, although not very lively, and therefore pleasing, without producing a deep and lasting impression […] “But allowing the English to have strong passions, there exists another reason which explains the absence of national music in them; it is, they have no leisure to exhale their character in songs.”

Fortunately, in 1823, Kitchiner reports in his The loyal and national songs of England that although it has been said that, “the English have no national songs”, he can furnish a whole volume of them to disprove the theory.  Two volumes, if you count the sea song book published the same year!

While there,  I also looked at some archival documentation, though I didn’t get through as much as I had ambitiously hoped to survey.  I did find the reference to Stationers’ Hall music and books being sold in 1793 – Finlayson and Simpson alluded to this in Guild and Law’s book about Edinburgh University Library.  I had wondered if these sales were the tip of the iceberg, but after skimming through one and a half books of monetary receipts, I reluctantly concluded that the reference was either a one-off, or other sales must have been recorded elsewhere.  Possibly not so much the tip of the iceberg, as a solitary ice-cube!

2017-11-01 16.45.18Help!

I had intended to look at some library receipt books (loan registers), but ran out of time.  Does anyone fancy a quick romp through Da.2.3 (1766-1812), Da.2.4 (1805-1815) or Da.2.6 (Surgeons and others beside the professors, 1770-1810, 1784-1809), to see if any music loans can be traced?  In St Andrews, it was easy.  Music loans are noted as such – eg., “Music Vol.116”, so they jump out and hit you.  This may well not be the case in other libraries, and of course we also don’t know how much more – if any – of the copyright music was bound.

Home and Away

NLS Advocates Committee on Music 1856Waiting with bated breath to see if I’ll make it to the antipodes, this week I continued my explorations closer to home, visiting the National Library of Scotland yesterday to investigate music committee meetings at the Advocates Library in 1831-2, and later in 1856.  The Advocates Library (later to be absorbed into the National Library of Scotland) was one of the Scottish copyright libraries, so received the quarterly consignments of legal deposit materials, and indeed continued to receive them after the legislation had stripped most universities of legal deposit entitlements in 1836.

Dauney cover
Dauney – Ancient Scotish Melodies

Who should I immediately encounter but my old friend William Dauney?  He was to author Ancient Scotish Melodies in 1838, before he emigrated to British Guyana (as it was then).

He was in good company – John Donaldson was also on the committee.  Donaldson had started out as a music teacher in Glasgow, trained as a lawyer in Edinburgh, and eventually (on his fourth application) became fourth Reid Professor of Music at Edinburgh University in 1845.  (You can find out much, much more on the excellent Edinburgh University Reid Concerts database, here.)  But all this was well in the future, in 1831-2.  It was good to know that the music’s future wellbeing was in safe hands.

Dauney and Donaldson were joined by a Mr Monro – too common a name in Edinburgh Reid Concertto be sure of his identity, though there certainly was a Mr Monro in the tenor section of the 1842 Reid Concert, and he might have been a partner in the music-sellers Monro and May, who traded for a time in London.

I discovered that – horror! – prior to the establishment of the  music committee, the Advocates had apparently not been taking particularly good care of their copyright music.  But before we gasp in righteous indignation, let’s remember that the legal deposit libraries had been receiving mountains of light popular music along with the more ‘worthy’ compositions – for example, on this very day in 1787, publishers Longman and Broderip made one of their very frequent trips to Stationers’ Hall to register Jonas Blewitt’s song, sung at Bermondsey’s Spa Gardens by Mr Burling – ‘Where are my Jolly Companions gone? A favourite drunken song.’  It is sadly understandable that many scholarly libraries couldn’t see the need for this material, whether or not they had a legal and moral obligation to take it.  There are still copies catalogued online in two libraries in the UK, if you’re curious to see how awful – or otherwise – the song might have been!

John Donaldson
Prof. John Donaldson

 John Winter Jones

As a librarian myself, I smiled to read that after a week of deliberations, this committee couldn’t agree whether to classify music by composers’ names, or by publisher.  Small wonder they requested rules from the British Museum, which was somewhat ahead of them in terms of music librarianship!  John Winter Jones, Assistant Librarian at the Museum, took the lead in creating a catalogue there, and later became Principal Librarian.  I believe the “Ninety-one rules” originated during his time there.  (Ninety one! If he had only seen AACR2, Marc cataloguing, RDA and all the other cataloguing protocols now available …)

There remains one further excitement.  There are a couple of lists of music dating from February and March 1830.  Was it sold or retained? It’s very tempting to transcribe the lists and see what remains elsewhere in the country!

Dreams of Distant Places


This week’s news is cautiously optimistic.  I have the opportunity to speak at a conference in New Zealand if I can secure the funding to get me there! I’ve applied for funding – so watch this spot.

What about the Colonies?

Meanwhile, however, it set me wondering about legal deposit in the colonies in the nineteenth century.  This is not something that I’d thought about before.  Obviously, early printed music in New Zealand or Australia would generally have come from Europe, whether as new imports, brought by emigrants or sent to them by their families.  (See the excellent work being done by Sydney Living Museums in Australia, or – as an example of an early immigrant musician’s life – Michael Kassler’s fascinating paper, ‘The remarkable story of Maria Hinckesman‘, in Musicology Australia (2007).  I really don’t know much about the nineteenth century music trade beyond Britain.  I seized my copy of Partridge’s The History of the Legal Deposit of Books (1938) for a quick overview, where I learned that New Zealand’s own legal deposit legislation came much later.  It would still be nice to know more about the publication of music actually composed there during the 19th century!   Has anyone studied this?

You can’t beat a good bibliography

Over the past couple of years, I’ve compiled quite an extensive bibliography covering legal deposit (both at the general and music-specific level), and the nineteenth-century histories of the British legal deposit libraries.  I’m sure I haven’t yet listed everything that’s out there, but progress is being made.  I’m currently tidying up this listing, then I’ll post it online.  What I need more of, are links to finding aids, published or online, outlining what archival information is available for the different libraries.  Once I’ve got it into a shape fit for public consumption, I’d love to receive any further suggestions for suitable additions.  A student at the University of Edinburgh made a great listing of catalogues, accounts, and borrower loan records (“receipt books” in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century terminology) this summer, and I’ve currently got a copy of it on my desk to peruse closely.  Next week, I’m going to consult a couple of resources recommended to me by the National Library of Scotland’s Music Librarian – these will hopefully fill in my knowledge about what’s available there.  In this age of the internet, it pays to remember that not everything is online, and it’s invaluable to know about the existence of earlier finding aids that remain in their original print format.  I’m quite well clued-up about the resources in St Andrews, and I’ve got several useful links for Sion College’s holdings, now in Lambeth Palace Library.  Any further suggestions about other libraries, anyone?!

Official Commissions

At various times, official commissions looked into the legal deposit libraries’ handling and curation of the legal deposit materials, and library provision for universities in general. I really do need to capture details of all surviving documentation.  Partridge  mentions that after the 1814 Copyright Act, returns were requested from the legal deposit libraries (1st July 1817), which resulted in the Return of the Libraries, ordered to be printed by the House of Commons on 6 March and 9 April, 1818 [BM.515 l 20] (Partridge ibid, p.73].*  This contains a table of rejected items from Oxford or Cambridge – I have also found an amended return from Cambridge, which has of course been added to the bibliography!

Amended Return Cambridge - see mention of music

Similarly, from 1826 onwards, there was a Royal Commission investigating library provision to the University Libraries in Scotland. I’ve seen one of the huge tomes emanating from this exercise, regarding the Aberdeen responses, and transcribing interviews with individual professors.  Revd. William Paul remembered the sale of some legal deposit music, a couple of decades earlier.  Oh, really? This is interesting stuff!!

Great Britain. Commission for Visiting the Universities and Colleges of Scotland  W. Clowes and Sons, 1837

It’s fair to say that bibliographic control of this material is sometimes slightly inconsistent, but it would appear desirable to track down each Scottish university’s response, and to look at the other responses from St Andrews, Edinburgh and Glasgow!

Evidence Oral and Documentary Commissions 1837 top page

Evidence Oral and Documentary Commissions 1837 middle page

Evidence Oral and Documentary Commissions 1837 bottom page


Guest Blogposts Ahead!

We now have five offers of guest blogposts for this blog, two of them scheduled for the beginning of December.  Embracing technology, I’ve set up a Doodle poll for other interested guests.  The link has been sent to everyone signed up to the Jisc Music from Stationers’ Hall mailing list.  Completing a Doodle poll is simplicity itself, and I’ll get to see any responses to the poll. If you’re on the list, please check your email inbox!  (If you’re not on the list, here’s how to sign up!  Open Invitation to Join the Conversation)

And More Visits

When I only have one and a half days a week for research, even scheduling visits to all the former legal deposit libraries is just a touch more tricky, but I’m doing my best.  Every week, I try to think ahead and start planning another trip, so we’ll see where I end up visiting next! Which reminds me … time to tie up some arrangements …

  •  House of Commons, Extracts of so Much of the Returns Made by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, (pursuant to the Orders of the 1st July 1817 and 20th February Last) as State, Whether Any of the Books Claimed under the Late Copyright Act Have Been Omitted to Be Placed in their Respective Libraries, and how otherwise disposed of.  (1818) [Paper no.98. Available via database, UK Parliamentary Papers (ProQuest)]

Planning Ahead

If Research Days were like Saints’ Days, then my Tuesdays would be Research Day Eves! The arts in daily life - Mrs Playfair of Dalmarnock's journalNormally, I’m busy being a librarian on a Tuesday, but since I have a day’s leave, I can look ahead to what’s in store tomorrow.

  1. Firstly, we’ve had several offers of blogposts, so to help with the planning, I’m contemplating setting up a Doodle-poll (or something similar) so that interested people can commit themselves a bit more definitely, and we get some sense of what’s next.  Research Doodle-poll.
  2. I need to set up some more meetings, after last week’s very productive mission to Edinburgh.  Quite a few meetings, in fact.
  3. I need to tidy up the rest of my bibliography – or what I’ve got so far – so that I can post it online and share it more widely.  I’d love to be notified of any other useful reading that I’ve missed.
  4. Bibliographer to the last, I need to check out the various commissions to examine universities and their libraries, in the Georgian/early Victorian era.  I need precise citations for reports for ALL the legal deposit libraries involved in those commissions.  Not quite sure how I’ll get round to reading them all, but the first objective is to identify them all.  They aren’t always all that easy to trace, and sometimes library copies don’t have title pages – a bit of a setback, you could say!

My apologies that no podcast has happened for a couple of weeks; inspiration hasn’t descended upon me, and at present I’m hoarse, if not speechless.  A podcast will happen soon, rest assured.  (At least 21st century scholars have more effective cold remedies than our early 19th century forbears!)