A Good Description (Bibliographers will understand!)

Two school music books entitled "Pictures in Song"
Tonic Sol-Fa notation
Tonic Sol-Fa

My latest eBay purchase will teach me to look more closely at the photos. (Of which there were a lot, I might add.) But the words DESCRIBING the pair of books nowhere said that one was a staff edition, and the other Tonic Sol-Fa!

The cover title was correctly transcribed, although the seller hadn’t indicated that the one without the words “School edition – Staff” was, in fact, the School edition in Tonic Sol-Fa. Had I looked right through the photos, I would have got to the picture of the Sol-Fa title page and an example of the Sol-Fa itself. My mistake!

However, in this case it’s not too much of a problem – I’m more concerned with the contents of the books and their paratext, than actually playing or singing the music. And if I want to practise my sol-fa reading skills, well, I now have another book to practise with!

Wrapping Things Up

CFSH Bibliography

Followers of the Claimed From Stationers’ Hall research network are probably already aware that there’s an extensive bibliography of writings to do with legal deposit and copyright, most specifically historical music legal deposit and copyright – but also a bit of library history, book history, cultural history of various kinds, and bibliography.

It has been updated periodically, and is now in its 7th edition, but when the special issue of Brio (vol.56 no.2) rolls off the printing press, a significantly extended 8th edition of the bibliography will be posted on this website.  It’ll include every article and review in the special issue, and virtually every reference or footnote cited by each author of ditto.  I wouldn’t be so bold as to say that not one citation concerning historical music legal deposit has been missed, but the chances of having missed anything significant are probably fairly slender!


History of Music Collections in Edinburgh University Library – 2 new articles!

Edinburgh University Library (Wikimedia Commons image)

Readers of Brio (the professional journal of IAML UK and Ireland) will already have read the two-part contribution by Alastair Macdonald and Elizabeth Quarmby-Lawrence, which appeared in Autumn/Winter 2018 and Spring/Summer 2019.  However, if you don’t subscribe or have access to that august journal, you might not have seen them. They’re a major contribution to the field, so it’s important that they’re publicised! And yes, they’ve been added to the Claimed From Stationers’ Hall network bibliography on the present website, too.

  • Alastair Macdonald and Elizabeth Quarmby-Lawrence, ‘From General Reid to DCRM(M): Cataloguing the Music Collections of Edinburgh University Library. Part 1, The Early Reid Professors and the First Catalogues, 1807-1941’, Brio, 55.2 (2018), 27–49
  • Alistair Macdonald and Elizabeth Quarmby-Lawrence, ‘From General Reid to DCRM(M): Cataloguing the Music Collections of Edinburgh University Library. Part 2, Professional Librarians and Automation, 1947-2019.’, Brio, 56.1 (2019), 62–83.





Teaching About Musical Paratext

A few years ago, I published an article in a librarianship journal, about librarians teaching, and the question of teaching music students about paratext in early national song collections.

Let me state here and now, my approach to article titles has changed, and I would never again try to be ‘clever’ or controversial in this regard.  A perfectly acceptable article was made to look flippant, or even worse, by my woeful enjoyment of puns and double-entendres.

Nonetheless, because I’d like to share the article, I’ll endure the embarrassment of sharing the title with you.  This is a pre-publication version, which I’ll also upload to our institutional repository in the near future:-

‘Sexy’ bibliography (and revealing paratext)

bluebells-1429817_960_720Engaging with students in teaching bibliographic citation, and demonstrating the significance of paratext in historical national song collections.

General information


A Working Weekend?


Try as I will to avoid the temptation, my research interests overspill into my weekends. Saturday saw me inventorising the late Jimmy Shand’s less-antiquarian accordion music at the Wighton Collection in Dundee.  I had much amusement looking at the accordion instruction books!  There might be mileage in a wee general-interest article about these, so I can see I’ll have to look at them more closely when I return to finish my “honorary librarian” duties another time.  (I’m obsessed with paratext for its value as cultural context, and music instruction books are a bit of a spin-off from this – even if they’re not from the Georgian era!)

Back at home on Sunday, I did a little more work on my Sir John Macgregor Murray paper.

Invaluable Resource: The Stationers Company Archive 1554-1984, by Robin Myers

robin myers book coverBy and large, this book is aimed at book and publishing historians – it enumerates the contents of the Stationers’ Company Archive from 1554-1984, at Stationers’ Hall. The compiler, Robin Myers, was for a long time Honorary Archivist there. (She has the status of Liveryman at the Stationers’ Company.)

Not the first attempt at documenting this complex body of material, but certainly the most comprehensive, I commend especially the Preface (xiii-xiv) and Introduction xvii-xxxvii), which gives an overview of the history of the Archive. Significantly, the creation of a proper muniment room in 1949 made visits more convenient for researchers, and also saw the awakening interest of musicologists looking for first London editions by famous composers.

Next, cast your eye over the Contents, and in particular Section I – the Entry Books of Copies & Register Books 1557-1842; Registers of Books Sent to Deposit Libraries 1860-1924; a Cash Book & Copyright Ledger Book 1895-1925; and Indexes of Entry Books 1842-1907 appear between pp.21-30. The Entry Books cover several years at a time for the earliest period, and a couple of years at a time for the era that our project has been covering. As I may have mentioned already, I’m quite interested in the book commencing June 1817, and we find in the listing that the wording, ‘Published by the author and his property’ “begins to appear not infrequently in this volume.” This would seem to imply a greater sense of intellectual property, although there may be another more technical explanation of which I’m not aware!

Much of the rest of the book concerns leases, freedoms, wardens’ vouchers and other documentation which are maybe of little concern to the average musicologist, but it would do no harm to glance through the contents if only so that you know what else is there. A complicated web of documentation of which many of us are blissfully unaware!

Myers, Robin (ed.) The Stationers’ Company Archive 1554-1984 (Winchester: St Paul’s Bibliographies, 1990) ISBN 0906795710

The records of the Stationers’ Company are now available as digital images via publisher Adam Matthew: Literary Print Culture: the Stationers’ Company Archive, 1554-2007. As well as the records themselves, there’s also a wealth of background information, including commentary by Robin Myers. You can view a short YouTube video here.

Edinburgh University Legal Deposit Music

Edinburgh Legal Deposit Music Research – Brief Bibliography

I’m looking forward to giving a talk to students at the University of Edinburgh this week.  The University Library was one of the recipients of legal deposit materials during the Georgian era, before the law changed in 1836.  Amongst all the learned tomes and textbooks, they received sheet-music too.  The interesting question, of course, is what they did with it!

Now, as you know, I’m a bit of an enthusiast when it comes to bibliographies, but this time I’ve prepared a very minimal bibliography in a novel format.  Should you wish to share it, here’s an easy URL to the same animated bibliography:-


Would you like more? Full details of these and many, many more references are on the big, definitive bibliography page on this Claimed From Stationers’ Hall blog.

Bibliography Revisions

Our bibliography was only updated at the end of August, but a mere five weeks later, there were a number more useful publications waiting to be added, including some references gleaned from a couple of exciting articles by Nancy Mace.  So, a new edition of the bibliography has been uploaded …

books on bookshelves
Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

Notwithstanding this, please check what’s there already, and do let me know if you’ve written about any aspect of historical music copyright, music library history, or music publishing history that might be pertinent to our field of study! We’d really like to add details to our listing.




One Data Slice or Two?

It’s some months now since we agreed at our workshop that it might be possible to make  a comparison across libraries of a small sample of the legal deposit music acquired during the Georgian era.  A spreadsheet was shared and duly returned, or completed by me to the best of my ability where available data was more sketchy, and this month I’ve been pondering which data “slices” might be most amenable to comparison.

Here are the facts: a couple of libraries have identifiable runs of legal deposit music from that era.  Other libraries may have recognisable sequences, or scattered volumes containing legal deposit music, or volumes which were collated later along with other material NOT acquired by legal deposit.  The bindings, too, may be done to a house style, or may be so different that it’s clear the volumes arrived via a different route.

And then there are the catalogues.  Same problem.  The Universities of St Andrews and Aberdeen have their sequences of volumes, so the shelf-marks should be easy to recognise in the catalogues, too.  This may be the case in Glasgow and Oxford too, but it might not be as clear-cut as it is in St Andrews and Aberdeen.  Interrogating the catalogues for music from particular years will yield items that were NOT acquired by legal deposit as well as items that were.  And it’s even more complicated in some of the other libraries!  The vaster the collections, the trickier it gets.  There’s one more problem, too.  It’s not all catalogued online.  Where an online catalogue can be interrogated by date, a paper one cannot!

2017-12-18 22.23.31
Batt-printed porcelain contemporary with the copyright music era

And then we have the problem that Kassler’s Music Entries at Stationers’ Hall 1710-1818 not only ends at 1818 – in other words, eighteen years before the Library Deposit Act in 1836 – but the last eighteen years of his index are listed as an appendix, and have a different history to the rest of the book: this appendix covers ‘Music entries from 1811 to 1818 in the William Hawes Manuscript’, which is an extract copied from the Stationers Hall registers.  It doesn’t give as much detail (notably, no publisher, not as much title information – and no library locations are given) but it does at least mean that we have a list of some kind up to 1818.

After that? We’re on our own!  Adam Matthew Digital has produced an online database providing digital images of the Stationers’ Hall registers, so it might be that we’d have to arrange for someone to transcribe the entries for the last eighteen years of the era that we’re interested in.

  1. The first question is, do any of the Georgian legal deposit libraries subscribe to the Literary Print Culture database?
  2. And the next is, can we find grant funding to make transcription a real possibility?!

Anyway, I’m wondering about not one but two data-slices, firstly at the tail-end of Kassler’s index – which would still mean we lacked some of the Stationers’ Hall data, but would include the most library stock – and then, perhaps later on, to consider the five or six years prior to the Copyright Rescinding Act. This would allow us to make comparisons between what was published, by whom, and whether different kinds of material were by now being kept.

Before any kind of listing could be made, we have to decide what style of bibliography we’re aspiring to.  Do we want it online?  Do we want short-titles or full descriptive bibliography?  What skills do we require in a research assistant for this kind of task? Certainly, we need an understanding of music AND of what cataloguing or bibliography-making entails.

We’ll all need to mull over these problems before we can make any positive plans of action!

A Bibliography of Historical Music Legal Deposit and Copyright

2017-12-06 15.27.11Dear friends and fellow network members,

Just thought I’d remind you that we have an extensive bibliography pertaining to the history of music legal deposit and copyright in the UK (and further afield, in a few instances).  Do take a look – if you have written on the subject but I haven’t picked up the citation, please do forward it!  Similarly, if you have colleagues whose work ought to be included in this listing, it would be great if you could let me know.  I’d hate for anyone to be missed out!  Very many thanks.

Access it here:- https://claimedfromstationershall.wordpress.com/bibliography/