Many a slip

This is a copy of the first appearance in print of Il musico prattico, by the Maltese composer and theorist Francesco Az[z]opardi (1748–1809).  It was later ‘introduced as a textbook in Paris by Grétry: Cherubini based the 19th chapter of his treatise Cours de contrepoint (1835) on its analysis of imitation’ (New Grove).  The translator is Nicolas-Etienne Framery (1745–1810), a successful librettist, critic, and erstwhile editor of the Journal de musique and, later, the musical section of the Encyclopédie méthodique.  The title-page here styles him ‘Sur-Intendant de la Musique de Monseigneur Comte d’Artois’, but the name—‘comte d’Artois’ was the title used by Louis XVI’s youngest brother, Charles—has been crossed out in manuscript ink.

Something else that has happened to the title-page is the use of a printed paper slip to change the imprint.  This is a practice one sees every so often with eighteenth-century books, but this example was a first for me: the imprint has been altered twice.

The original imprints reads ‘A Paris Chez Le Duc’, which was first changed to ‘Chez Louis’, then ‘Chez [Jean-Jérôme] Imbault’, a well-known violinist whose music publishing business grew in stature in the 1790s and early nineteenth century.

For more details of this, and other books from the eighteenth century, please click here.


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Self-ruin and Shakespeare, a novel

This is a book I’ve only had once before, and I was pleased to find it again.  It’s the first edition of a novel which appeared the following year in English translation, in both London and Dublin, as The Englishman’s Fortnight in Paris; or, the Art of ruining himself there in a few Days.  The ‘Londres’ imprint here is fictitious: the book was actually published in Paris.

Another untruth about the title is that it is not a posthumous work by Laurence Sterne, but an original novel by the quarrelsome young Jacobite Sir James Rutlidge (also Jean-Jacques Rutledge, 1742–1794).  Born in Dunkirk, of French–Irish descent, and brought up bilingual in English and French, ‘Rutlidge’s principal claim to fame was his promotion of English literature in France.  In Observations à messieurs de l’Académie française (1776) he provided a spirited defence of Shakespeare’s superiority over French dramatists, attacking Voltaire for his earlier criticisms of the English writer’ (Oxford DNB).  Such criticism also appears here, with a 12-page preface devoted to the defence of Shakespeare against the claims of Voltaire, and incidental reflections on the comparative merits of French and English literature scattered throughout.

The novel itself tells the story of the rapid demise of a young English aristocrat during a visit to Paris.  Seduced by the glittering beau monde, he attends balls, the races, galleries and the theatre, and (naturally) falls in love but, in a series of unfortunate events, loses all his money and finds himself imprisoned for debt.  The novel’s critique of French society made it notorious in its day, especially since Rutlidge neglected to disguise several of its characters, notably the painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze whose atelier the hero visits, occasioning a discussion on the decadence of contemporary French art.  Despite its obvious caricatures, it is a serious comparison of English and French character and must be worthy of a modern reprint.

For details of this, and other recent acquisitions, please click here.


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Transvestite circus performer turned novelist

One of the (almost daily) joys of working with old books is discovering something you never knew before.  With this book, a novel published in Berlin, 1862–3, it was a new author: Emil Mario Vacano.  Often cited in histories of gay writing, Vacano (1840–1892) is certainly ‘one of the strangest literary figures of the nineteenth century’ (Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie): a transvestite circus performer from Moravia who specialised in high-wire acts and feats of horsemanship before devoting himself to writing in 1861.  His circus life provided the meat for many of his early novels, such as Moderne Vagabunden, the fictitious autobiography of Speranza Orbeliani, born in Valparaiso to a German acrobat couple but now touring America himself with the circus.

As stated on the cover, the inspiration for the book came from the 1852 novel Die Vagabunden by the popular writer Karl von Holtei (1798–1880).  Critics at the time, however, accused Vacano of plagiarising an even earlier work, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (1845).

The attractive lithographed cover illustration depicts various characters in the book, including Vacano’s own alter ego, ‘Miss Ella’, balancing en pointe on the back of a horse.


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A composer and his copyright

Here’s something else for the Edinburgh book fair: an interesting piece of music, published 1834/5, with local connections (and a fine lithographed title-page).

Charles H. Purday (1799–1885) was a composer, writer, and lecturer on music, the youngest son of the bookseller Thomas Purday (1765–1838).  ‘In his retirement he advocated reform of the copyright laws, seemingly because of injustices he had himself suffered, and in 1877 he published Copyright: a Sketch of its Rise and Progress’ (New Grove).  The reason for this interest in copyright laws stems from his song The Old English Gentleman, for which Purday had been taken to court twice in 1834—by Scott’s friend William Henry Murray, manager of the Edinburgh Theatre, and James Dewar, director of music at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh—for allegedly pirating the song.  ‘In the year 1826 [Murray] published a song under a similar title, the idea and the words of which were taken principally from Percy’s Reliques of Old English Poetry.  In 1830, on occasion of the piece called Perfection being performed at Edinburgh, [Murray] made an addition of three verses to the former song, and sung it at the Edinburgh Theatre in its altered and amended state.  He handed it over with the additional words to Mr Dewar … and [he] handed the song to Mr Robertson, a publisher, to be engraved and published.  The song was accordingly published, and after a second edition had come out in Edinburgh, it was published by Mr Cramer … in London.  Between the last two editions, [Purday] published a song so very similar in title and words as to leave no doubt that it would be taken for the original song …’ (The Times, 13 June 1834, p. 6).  The defence showed that the song existed in various other forms, and that Purday had not taken it from Murray’s version, and he was acquitted.

The following week, Purday was once again in the dock, for plagiarising the music, during which Dewar’s lawyer called a number of well-known musicians to take the stand, including Sir George Smart, Henry Bishop, Thomas Attwood, and Ignaz Moscheles.  ‘Much laughter was excited during the trial by the attempts on the part of the counsel and witnesses to give the jury distinct ideas of the differences between the melodies of the three airs … being restrained from explaining either by vocal or instrumental performance’ (The Times, 18 June, p. 4).  A nonsuit was entered, as the jury found there was not enough evidence of Dewar’s copyright.

For further details of this, and other items I shall be exhibiting in Edinburgh, click here.


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For St Patrick’s Day

I may only have just returned from the New York Book Fair, but next week I’ll be off to Edinburgh.  This year is going to be a busy one.  One book I shall on my stand there is this:

Published in 1745, this is the rare first edition of Burk Thumoth’s collection of Scottish and Irish airs.  Thumoth was an Irish musician, who performed as a trumpeter and flautist in both Dublin and London.  He published little, but this book is important as ‘one of the earliest printed sources of Irish traditional airs’ (New Grove).  According to one source, the book was a favourite of Thomas Jefferson’s.

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The first English translation of Russian verse, or a literary forgery?

One rare item I shall have with me next week at the New York book fair is this:

It’s a work I’d never heard of before: the first edition (there was also a reissue, with a cancel title-page, in 1816) of supposedly a translation of a poem, in which ‘a Russian Boyar adopts the son of a deceased peasant, for whom he entertained a friendship.  His lordship was at this time childless; but, shortly after, his lady presented him with a daughter.  She only lived, however, to embrace her child, and to recommend her future union with the adopted Alexis.  The Boyar promises.  The children are brought up with the avowed intention of being united; but, when they have attained an age to be sensible of their mutual and unalterable attachment to each other, the arrival of a noble stranger changes the scene: he induces the Boyar to Exile his favourite, for the purpose of weakening his daughter’s hitherto approved affection, and of marrying her according to her rank.  The heroine true to her first love pines for her absent Alexis; till, being at the brink of the grave, her father resolves to restore his child, by recalling the object of her affections, and blessing their union.  But mercy came too late.  The youth, more noble of spirit than of birth, seeks glory in the field of battle, and falls at the battle of Dresden, with the name of a hero …’ (Critical Review).

The book is not listed in either of the standard bibliographies of English translations of Russian literature and begs the question: is it a translation at all, or simply an unknown English writer capitalising on the fashion for all things Russian which arose in Britain during the Napoleonic Wars?

For details of this, and other books I shall be exhibiting at the fair, please click here.


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The perils of emigration

Another month, another book fair.  In the past, New York book fair has taken place in April, but this year it’s moved to the beginning of March.  This has meant carefully selecting, even as far back as December last year, which items to take to California, and which items to take to New York.  The selection for Oakland worked well, and I was very pleased with how the fair went.  Hopefully, the visitors to the Park Avenue Armory in New York will be as interested in what I have chosen for them!  Here’s one intriguing item:

It’s a rare satirical print, ‘dedicated to all those who would exchange their homeland for a foreign, far-off country.’  The story which the print tells begins with the hero leaving Germany with his family; together they spend a month being tossed about on the waves of the Atlantic, with any provisions either beginning to run out or spoil, before they finally reach America, ‘more dead than alive’, only to find the place raging with cholera and coffins piled up at the docks.  They then travel by steamer up the St Lawrence River, pressed together cheek by jowl with their fellow passengers in the stifling heat, everyone battling the urge to throw up.  When they arrive at the Canadian border, they discover from the agent that the land they purchased is covered in trees, which need to be cleared before farming can begin.  At this point, the narrative, at least in terms of geography, becomes confused: they meet with snakes and monkeys in the forests; they must dig the land under the blazing sun (90° in the shade); they are plagued by mosquitoes that ‘sting like needles’, chased from a neighbouring swamp by a crocodile, and come across spiders the size of your hand.

Two years pass, and they have still to make a profit.  Their ‘neighbour’ (who lives five miles away) consoles them that they might be doing as well as him in about 12–14 years.  The final line of illustrations spells the end: all their worldly possessions burn down for the third time, forcing them to abandon their frontier life.  During their journey back, they are captured by cannibals, who try to boil him and his family alive.  By a miracle, our hero escapes.  In the final frame, we find him, poor and friendless, ‘like Robinson Crusoe’, looking longingly after a ship to take him back to Germany.

Judging from the print itself, I thought probably mid nineteenth century as a production date.  Then I discovered that six of the images, or versions of them, appear in a little book published in Leitmeritz (present-day Litoměřice in the Czech Republic) in 1850 called Das Goldland Californien.  There was a copy at Bonhams in 2015.  It’s impossible to know which came first, the book or the print, but one obviously served as the source for the other.


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O say, can you see…?

The last few weeks have been busy preparing for the California Book Fair.  America has been in the news recently, of course, and so I am interested to see what people make of one item I shall be exhibiting next week in Oakland:

If it looks familiar, that’s because it’s the tune to The Star-Spangled Banner in its original form (both textually, rhythmically, and harmonically), published around 1780.  In fact, I have two printings of it:

The song was written by John Stafford Smith for members of the Anacreontic Society, and first published by Longman & Broderip, c.1779.  The following year they reprinted the song (the one on the left here; the only difference between this and the first printing are the additional words ‘and No. 13 Hay Market’ in the publishers’ address).  The plates were used again c.1784 by the publisher Anne Bland (the printing on the right here), with a re-engraved title section.

‘The social cachet of the Catch Club, with its permanent waiting list for membership, and its success in reviving the catch and establishing the glee, inevitably inspired emulation …  One of the earliest and most significant London imitators was the Anacreontic Society, founded in 1766 …  It took its name from the Greek lyric poet Anacreon, famous for his celebration of love and wine …  The Anacreontic Song, ritually performed at all meetings of the society, had been specially composed by members of the society under the direction of John Stafford Smith to words by the lawyer Ralph Tomlinson, for a number of years president of the Anacreontics’ (Robins, Catch and Glee Culture in Eighteenth-Century England, pp. 72–3).  The song ‘soon became well known both in England and America, and its melody was also used as the setting for about 85 different printed American poems, almost all of a patriotic nature, from 1790 to 1820’ (Fuld, World-famous Music, p. 530).  The tune was first published with Francis Scott Key’s poem The Star Spangled Banner in Baltimore in 1814.  Eleven copies are recorded; the last in private hands sold at Christie’s in 2010 for over $500,000.

If you’d like to hear what the original sounds like, here you are:

For details of these, and other items I shall have with me at the fair, please click here.

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A burlesque Tempest

When I put out a list on the theatre last year, this was one of the most sought-after items: excerpts from Ariel, a burlesque stage production based on The Tempest by the prolific playwright, librettist and editor of Punch, Francis Cowley Burnand (1836–1917).

Ariel was first performed by John Hollingshead’s company at the Gaiety Theatre on 8 October 1883, with Ellen ‘Nellie’ Farren (1848–1904) in the title role and Arthur Williams (1844–1915) as Prospero.  It received mixed reviews; The Times complained of the ‘flatness and insipidity’ of Burnand’s text and of his ‘vulgarising’ the original.  The Observer was less censorious, finding the piece moderately amusing, and predicting correctly that it would run well until making way for the annual Gaiety pantomime at Christmas.  It is certainly more jocund than its source material, containing a musical chorus of Storm Fairies, a duet between Miranda and Prospero, and a music-hall number for Alonzo entitled Just My Luck.

F. C. Burnand

From 1860 until his death Burnand produced more than two hundred burlesques, farces, pantomimes and other stage works.  He took over the editorship of Punch following Tom Taylor’s death in 1880, and is thought to have improved the paper’s tone, brightening it with his ‘rackety leadership’ (Oxford DNB).  Arguably his greatest editorial move was the publication of the enduring classic The Diary of a Nobody (1888).

Although it purports to be a selection of excerpts, no full version of the play is recorded and this may either the whole, or its only survival.


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Lovely litho

The past couple of weeks I have written about the opportunities offered by lithography to British musicians in the nineteenth century, and the problems they also encountered.

One of the obvious benefits of the new medium was illustration, and a number of recent acquisitions set me thinking about this:

This song was published c.1820, i.e. before lithography was being used in the UK for music itself (the notes are all engraved here), but was beginning to be employed to enhance the outward appearance of music publications.  The title illustration depicts a moment in the song: a young woman and her parents, she (and their dog) turning towards the window and the tap-tap-tapping of her beloved.  The composer, Willliam Thomas Parke (1762–1847), was principal oboe at Covent Garden for forty years, but took to composing light songs such as this in his later years.

Published in 1826, this is is a relatively early work by Barnett (1802–1890), though he was a published composer when still in his teens.  (The production from which it comes, Before Breakfast, was a highly popular musical put on by Richard Brinsley Peake, ‘one of the author’s most successful plays, performed no fewer than thirty nights in its first season’, Oxford DNB).  Again, the title-page here is lithographed, but the music is engraved.

This is the first edition of a ballad by Charles Henry Purday (1799–1885), published in 1837,  and ‘written upon the occasion of the tremendous storm of the 29th of November 1836, which severed the Tree represented on the title page in two; which Tree, and the Church are faithfully sketched as they stood previously to the above period, in the Parish of Boughton Monchelsea, near Maidstone, Kent.’

Later in the century, in the 1880s, another musician, Frederick Ouseley (1825–1889), Professor of Music at Oxford for over thirty years, turned to lithography for producing the handouts to accompany his lecture series on Spanish church music:

The volume contains five pieces: the opening of Doyague’s Magnificat for double choir; Eslava, Bone Pastor; Ledesma, Sancta Mater; Brós, Benedictus; and Ozcoz y Calahorra, Lauda Zion.

For more details on these, and other music, please see my recent Music list.


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