Waiting 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.
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 to 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 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!