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Library History: An Online Exhibition

A couple of months ago we curated an exhibition featuring items highlighting various aspects of the history of King’s College Library over the centuries. Below you will find some of the exhibits.

From the late sixteenth century until the current library opened in 1828, King’s Library occupied five of the side chapels on the south side of the famous Chapel. For most of this period it was a chained library. This book is one of a few to have survived with the original chains intact.

Pierre Bersuire, Dictionarii seu repertorii moralis
Venice: Gaspare Bindoni, 1589 (D.13.3)

Theatre was one of John Maynard Keynes’ particular areas of interest and his book collection includes many plays. He founded the Cambridge Arts Theatre in 1936. This is a reprint of the second quarto of Romeo and Juliet that was published in 1599. All modern editions are based on this version, which is considered to be the most complete and reliable text of the play.

William Shakespeare, The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedie, of Romeo and Juliet
London: Printed [by William Stansby] for John Smethwicke, [1622] (Keynes.C.6.4)

In 1638 Thomas Goad, a Kingsman and the son of Provost Roger Goad, who had been responsible for restoring the Library in the side chapels in King’s after a period of neglect, made provision in his will for the annual profit from some land he owned at Milton (near Cambridge) to be used in perpetuity to purchase divinity books for the Library. This was listed each year thereafter in the bursar’s account books as ‘Library Money’, and was spent on books and the upkeep of the bookcases and building.

Bursar’s book for 1697–98 (KCAR/4/1/4/106)

This is one of the books listed on the inventory of books bought in 1697–98: paid ‘to Mr. Bugg for his book’. In this case the book appears to have been bought directly from the author.

Francis Bugg, The Pilgrim’s Progress, from Quakerism, to Christianity
London: W. Kettleby, 1698 (D.13.3)

The volume below records donors of books to King’s College Library from about 1600 to about 1710, with details of the volumes they donated. On this page we see details of donations from three Provosts of King’s: Roger Goad, William Smith and Fogge Newton. The volume seems to have left King’s at some point in the 18th century, but was returned in 1784 as a note on the front flyleaf explains:

‘This book was given by the Revd Dr Farmer in 1784. He had found it at a Booksellers, & purchased it that it might be returned to the College. Wm Cooke’

Nomina eorum qu[i bibliothecam] Regalem sua munifice[ntia] locupletarunt [Donors’ Book]
(KCAC/6/2/29)

Finally, three historic bindings from the Thackeray Collection:

TOP LEFT: Calf armorial binding with the arms of Percy Clinton Sydney Smythe, 6th Viscount Strangford (1780-1855) (Thackeray.141)
TOP RIGHT: 16th-century manuscript waste binding consisting of a contemporary vellum sheet (stab-sewn) featuring part of the Psalms in textura quadrata with initials illuminated in red and blue (Thackeray.182)
BOTTOM: 19th-century blue goat skin stamped in gold (Thackeray.136)

GB/JC

Mozart’s birthday: an online exhibition

To mark the 260th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart earlier this week, the Library mounted a small exhibition. For the benefit of those who cannot visit the exhibition in person, here are some selected highlights.

Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule / Leopold Mozart. Augsburg: Johann Jakob Lotter, 1756. Rw.38.43

Leopold Mozart, Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule. (Augsburg: Johann Jakob Lotter, 1756. Rw.38.43)

Leopold Mozart (1719-1787) was not just a pushy parent: he was also a composer, violinist and music theorist. This first edition of his Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, a treatise on violin playing, dates from the year of his son’s birth, and features a number of plates illustrating common errors. The frontispiece (above left) is a portrait of Leopold himself surrounded by his own compositions, and both images show the practice, common at the time, of playing the violin with a concave bow and without chin rest or shoulder rest.

III sonates pour le clavecin ou piano forte: œuvre 8 / Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mainz: Schott, 1789. Rw.13.88

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, III sonates pour le clavecin ou piano forte, avec accompagnement d’un violon: œuvre 8. (Mainz: Schott, ca. 1789. Rw.13.88)

This set of parts for two sonatas for violin and piano, K.526 and K.481, and for the piano trio, K.496, was bequeathed to the College by Kingsman Andrew Raeburn (1933-2010, KC 1955). It dates from Mozart’s own lifetime, having been published around 1789. The title page bears the ownership inscription of Henriette Lessing. Further details of the item’s acquisition may be found on the College website here.

Le nozze di Figaro = Die Hochzeit des Figaro / Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Bonn: Simrock, ca. 1796. Rw.85.209

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Le nozze di Figaro = Die Hochzeit des Figaro. (Bonn: Simrock, ca. 1796. Rw.85.209)

This German-Italian edition of Le nozze di Figaro, published in Bonn by the newly founded Simrock publishing house, was the first vocal score of the opera to appear in print. The title page of this copy bears the ownership mark of Lady Muir Mackenzie. This may plausibly be Georgina Muir Mackenzie (1833-1874), later Lady Sebright, a traveller and writer who, during a tour of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1858, was arrested as a spy with ‘pan-Slavistic tendencies’. She wrote about this experience and devoted much time during the following years to the promotion of Christianity in Turkey.

‘E Susanna non vien! ... Dove sono i bei momenti’ from Le nozze di Figaro / Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Manuscript, late 18th century. Rowe Ms 198

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, ‘E Susanna non vien! … Dove sono i bei momenti’ from Le nozze di Figaro. (Manuscript, late 18th century. Rowe Ms 198)

This manuscript, a contemporary transcription of ‘Dove sono i bei momenti’ from Act 3 of Le nozze di Figaro and its preceding recitative, is a relatively recent addition to the library’s collection, bought in 1981. In this aria, one of Mozart’s most exquisite, the Countess reflects on her marriage in the light of her husband’s presumed infidelity (‘Where are the lovely moments of sweetness and pleasure? Where have the promises gone that came from those lying lips?’). Naturally the opera ends with the blissful reunion of the Count and Countess.

Œuvres complettes. Cahier I, contenant VII sonates pour le pianoforte / Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, ca. 1798. Rw.28.84/1

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Œuvres complettes. Cahier I, contenant VII sonates pour le pianoforte. (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, ca. 1798. Rw.28.84/1)

Unlike Johann Sebastian Bach, whose greatness was not acknowledged (and whose music was not disseminated) until long after his death, Mozart’s popularity was immediate and enduring, and it was as early as 1798, seven years after his death, that the German firm of Breitkopf & Härtel began publishing a 17-volume edition of what purported to be the composer’s ‘Œuvres complettes’ [sic]. This volume of piano music contains among other works the K.331 sonata, with its familiar ‘Alla Turca’ finale.

Programme for Cambridge Grand Musical Festival. London: W. Glindon, 1824. Mn.22.7

Programme for Cambridge Grand Musical Festival. (London: W. Glindon, 1824. Mn.22.7)

This programme for a Grand Musical Festival ‘for the benefit of Addinbrooke’s [sic] Hospital (Upon the Occasion of the Opening of the New Wards)’ gives details of three ‘Grand Miscellaneous Concerts’ in the Senate House and two ‘Selections of Sacred Music’ at Great St Mary’s to be performed on 2, 3 and 5 July 1824. The opening concert featured a performance of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, and is most notable for the participation of the composer Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), making a rare appearance as a vocalist. The Times review remarked upon Rossini’s comic talent, observing that in the reprise of the Cimarosa duet that closed the first half his partner Angelica Catalani was ‘literally convulsed with laughter, and unable to proceed in two or three places’.

GB

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester: an online exhibition

Exhibition case

Last Friday King’s College Library and Archives hosted an exhibition for the Open Cambridge weekend, focusing partly on Kingsman John Davy Hayward (1905-1965) and his collection of early editions of the works of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester (1647-1680). These are some selected highlights of the exhibition.

H.14.1

Poems on Several Occasions by the Right Honourable the E. of R- – – (Printed at Antwerp, 1680). Hayward Bequest, H.14.1

Poems on Several Occasions was the first anthology of Rochester’s poems published after his death in July 1680. The false imprint (it was printed in London) and lack of a publisher’s name permitted unrestrained lewdness of content. By November of that year Samuel Pepys had a copy which he kept in the right-hand drawer of his writing desk as he considered it ‘unfit to mix with my other books’, adding ‘pray let it remain there, for as he is past writing any more so bad in one sense, so I despair of any man surviving him to write so good in another’.

H.10.5

A Satyr against Marriage ([London], undated). Hayward Bequest, H.10.5

Only a handful of Rochester’s works were printed during his lifetime, mainly satires published as broadsides. The most famous was his ‘A Satyr against Mankind’ (1679) which is a scathing denunciation of rationalism and optimism that contrasts human wickedness with animal wisdom. His ‘A Satyr against Marriage’ is written in a similar vein.

H.14.17 and H.14.16

Frontispiece portraits from two editions of The Miscellaneous Works of the Right Honourable the late Earls of Rochester and Roscommon . . . by Mons. St. Evremont (London, 1707). Hayward Bequest, H.14.16 & H.14.17

Spot the difference: numerous editions of Rochester’s works appeared during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and their salacious content was gradually rewritten to reflect ‘respectable’ tastes. One of these portraits has been doctored, perhaps to suggest the venereal disease that would eventually lead to Rochester’s demise.

H.12.7

A Genuine Letter from the Earl of Rochester to Nell Gwyn. Copied from an Original Manuscript in the French King’s Library. Hayward Bequest, H.12.7

The actress Nell Gwyn, a long-time mistress of Charles II, is also believed to have been Rochester’s mistress, perhaps demonstrating his prominent position at court as well as his interest in the theatre. In 1673 Rochester had begun training Elizabeth Barry as an actress. She went on to become the most famous actress of her age and her relationship with Rochester produced a daughter. Whilst bearing all the hallmarks of Rochester’s style, some doubt the authenticity of this explicit (and anonymously published) letter from Rochester to Nell.

Engraving

Engraving of Rochester crowning his monkey. Hayward Bequest, no shelfmark

Monkey business: this engraving is one of the best known images of Rochester, and provided the title for Graham Greene’s biography of the author, Lord Rochester’s Monkey. In ‘A Satyr against Mankind’ Rochester writes:

Were I, who to my Cost already am
One of those strange, prodigious Creatures Man,
A Spirit free, to choose for my own Share,
What sort of Flesh and Blood I pleas’d to wear,
I’d be a Dog, a Monkey, or a Bear,
Or any thing, but that vain Animal,
Who is so proud of being Rational.

H.12.15

Broadside circular ([London], ca. 1676), Hayward Bequest, H.12.15

In 1676 Rochester fell into disfavour with the King and fled this time to Tower Hill where he impersonated a physician, one ‘Dr Alexander Bendo’. Under this persona he claimed skill in treating many conditions including ‘barrenness’, apparently gaining him access to many young ladies.

WARNING: This blog post was not suitable for children.

GB/JC/IJ

‘The oddest town I’ve ever seen’: Alban Berg’s visit to Cambridge

Rowe Music Library

The first thing anyone notices on entering King’s College’s Rowe Music Library are shelves upon shelves of brightly coloured scores, and it is possible to be so beguiled by them that you fail to notice anything else; but there are pictures hanging on the walls that are just as interesting in their way. This, for instance:

Cambridge, 1931

The photograph was taken in January 1931, in the rooms of the musicologist E.J. Dent, a Fellow of King’s. Dent is the dapper, Wilfrid Brambell-esque figure seated at the table; alongside him, the Polish composer Grzegorz Fitelberg and the Belgian Désiré Defauw. At the piano is Alfredo Casella; standing behind him, Charles Koechlin and the conductor Adrian Boult. And in the middle, leaning on the piano, is Alban Berg. How did this man, one of the titans of twentieth-century classical music, come to be in Cambridge?

The occasion was a meeting of the jury of the International Society for Contemporary Music, which at that time consisted of Dent and the five composers (Boult serving in an advisory capacity). Dent had been President of the ISCM since its inception in 1922, and the purpose of the meeting was to determine which works would be performed at that summer’s Festival in Oxford and London, the first to be held in Britain.

Berg’s published letters to his wife tell the story. From 12th January:

So far I’ve only the impression of a provincial place, but not a German one. Sort of super-Deutsch-Landsberg.

Dent called for me, and we went on working in the College. Altogether this is the oddest town I’ve ever seen. More about that when I get back.

Dent, who is like a kindly nanny to me, made a splendid tea in the afternoon. We worked till about seven; and now the car is fetching me and taking me home to dinner. We had a very fine lunch at Dent’s, except that the food had no taste at all. In this country a pheasant tastes exactly like a turkey or a chicken.

A couple of days later:

I’ve been working hard all day, had a fine lunch (my ‘favourite’ roast lamb), home to dinner, played the gramophone afterwards, and went to bed early. It’s become colder. But thanks to all sorts of drinks, good warm pants and woolly vests and galoshes, I’m managing quite well and never catch cold. We all get on well on the jury, talking French almost all day – although we’re from six different countries: Italy, France, Belgium, Poland, Austria, England …

By 15th January, writing on his way to London, he had had enough:

Thank the Lord, Cambridge is over … not an hour more in that dull place.

In a letter to Arnold Schoenberg a month later, Berg wrote more frankly of his experience on the jury:

Of course the professional task at hand was very depressing since I, alone against 4, sometimes 5 opponents … was able to accomplish practically nothing worthwhile, as you can see from the concert programs of the Oxford Music Festival.

Thank heavens at least Webern will be heard!

The Webern performed that summer was his Symphony, Op. 21, the score of which Berg is seen holding in the photograph. Among the other works in the programme were Vaughan Williams’ Job: A Masque for Dancing, Gershwin’s An American in Paris, Hindemith’s children’s opera Wir bauen eine Stadt, and pieces by Szymanowski, Roussel, Roger Sessions, Egon Wellesz and Constant Lambert. Much of the Festival was broadcast by the BBC, which (alongside the Radio Times, at that time a publication of the BBC) made an effort to promote it with a series of articles and radio talks related to the music being performed.

While researching this post I had the opportunity of consulting Dent’s personal papers, housed in our Archive Centre. They include correspondence from several ISCM people, including a typed letter of thanks from Defauw dated 21st May 1931, to which is added a handwritten postscript referring presumably to the forthcoming Festival, to be held in July: ‘Cher Ami, je ferai tout mon possible pour venir en juillet – j’aurai une grande joie de vous revoir’.

Also in the Dent archive are several photographs dating from the foundation of the ISCM. This annotated photo, taken in Salzburg in 1922, features several composers of note, including Webern, Wellesz, Hindemith, Arthur Bliss (later Master of the Queen’s Music), and Ethel Smyth.

Salzburg, 1922

You can explore the Dent archive further by searching the catalogue on Janus here.

Bibliography
Brand, J., Hailey, C. & Harris, D. (eds.). The Berg-Schoenberg Correspondence: Selected Letters (Macmillan, 1987)
Doctor, J. The BBC and Ultra-Modern Music, 1922-1936 : Shaping a Nation’s Tastes (Cambridge University Press, 1999)
Grun, B. (ed.). Alban Berg: Letters to His Wife (Faber, 1971)

[The copyright holder of the 1931 ISCM photograph is unknown. We apologise for any inadvertent omission. Please contact us if you are the copyright holder.]

GB

Hide and seek

[Or, if you prefer, Haydn seek. I absolve myself of all responsibility for this pun.]

The fun of cataloguing rare books is in the detective work. It’s like hide and seek at times, following tracks to work out where a particular item belongs. You chase up a reference here, another there, encountering any number of dark alleys and dead ends along the way, eliminating the possibilities one by one, until eventually whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

I’ve been cataloguing rare music recently, most of it from the 1780s. The usual suspects: Davaux and Dalayrac, Tarchi and Tozzi, Sulzer, Schroeter and Schetky. Names that have the ring of familiarity even now. Occasionally, something out of the ordinary comes up, like a 1786 edition of Mozart piano sonatas printed in London by John Bland. Or this:

Title page 1

Most title pages have a publisher’s imprint, giving the cataloguer useful details of the place of publication, the name of the publisher, and even (in cases of great good fortune) the publication date. These are all standard on modern books, but in the 1780s they weren’t, especially on printed music.

Where to look, then, if your edition of Haydn’s Overture for the Piano Forte has no publication information? Well, in the first instance, major reference sources like the British Union-Catalogue of Early Music (BUCEM) and Répertoire international des sources musicales (RISM). In this case, though, the increasingly mysterious overture was listed in neither.

Haydn, happily, is a composer important enough to have his own thematic catalogue, which was compiled by Anthony van Hoboken and published in 1957. Hoboken arranges Haydn’s works by form (symphony, string quartet, piano sonata), and then chronologically by publication within sections. My heart sank at the prospect of having to wade through all of Haydn’s orchestral music to identify the overture in question. My first thought was that a piece of piano music calling itself an overture might just as easily be an arrangement of a symphony movement, and Haydn wrote a hell of a lot of symphonies.

Incipit 1

The task was to match the incipit (in plain English, the opening) of the score to one in Hoboken’s catalogue. After at least two minutes of tireless browsing, lo and behold, there it was in the Overtures section! Hob. Ia:7, Overture in D major. I hadn’t expected it to be so straightforward. Hoboken lists early editions of the piece, and includes the one I was cataloguing. But in the place where you would normally find the name of the publisher, one word: ‘Anonym’. Sigh.

When the reference works let you down, it doesn’t have to be the end of the trail. You still have your own wits to rely on, and (more pertinently) the item itself. In this case, a major clue was provided by the plate number. Sets of music printed from engraved plates often have a number at the foot of each page, identical across all plates in a set, and here the style of the plate number (a number 13 in parentheses), combined with its proximity to a similar Plate number 1plate number (the item bound after it having a number 14 in the same style), led me to infer with some confidence that the unidentified publishers of this edition were Edinburgh’s Corri & Sutherland.

This in turn facilitated the task of assigning a publication date. Humphries & Smith’s Music Publishing in the British Isles, an invaluable ‘dictionary of engravers, printers, publishers and music sellers’, says Corri & Sutherland operated from 1780 until 1790, which fits neatly with Hoboken’s stated composition date of 1777.

So there you have it: the cataloguing of an early edition from cradle to grave. There’s more to it than that, of course, but one has to keep something exciting in reserve for future posts.

GB