The new opportunities of lithography

I’m currently putting together a list on Music, to be sent out next week.  One item in particular brings together a number of things which interest me: a) music, b) illustration, c) lithography, d) provincial imprints, e) private printing:


Lithography, as Michael Twyman notes, was largely neglected by British music publishers in the first four decades of the nineteenth century.  ‘One man who did experiment with the printing of music lithographically, though only as a sideline, was the Birmingham antiquarian William Hawkes Smith.  He had his own lithographic press on which he produced his own sets of pictorial lithographs of an antiquarian kind, but he also printed a few pieces of music.  The best known of these are his “Quadrilling”, which is known to exist in three editions [1820, 1821, 1822], and “Washing day” …  Both publications had their pen and ink decorations “designed and executed” by Smith and it is clear from the unusually comprehensive imprint of “Quadrilling”, which reads “W. Hawkes Smith, del. fec. & lithog: impr: 1821”, that he did everything himself.  Both publications are delightfully naive and are of interest primarily for their early date, provenance, and novelty’ (Early Lithographed Music, 1996, p. 386).


Twyman returned to the work in his Panizzi Lectures: ‘Lithography made it possible for words, pictures, and other graphic marks to be produced together using precisely the same technology … [Smith’s work] illustrates as well as any single item can the new opportunities offered by lithography in this respect.  Hawkes Smith wrote the verses, set them to music, wrote out both the text and the music, drew the illustrations, designed the publication, printed it, and published it too …  His three known music publications, a couple of which ran to further editions, are in some respects closer to being “desktop” publications than their late twentieth-century equivalents’ (Breaking the mould: the first hundred years of lithography, British Library, 2001, pp. 8–9).


The satire itself targets the quadrille, ‘one of the most popular ballroom dances of the 19th century’ (New Grove), which had been introduced to London at Almack’s Assembly Rooms in 1815 and must soon have spread across the country.


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Donald: the mask’s thrown off

Sometimes, in the book world, there are wonderful coincidences; you can come across a book you’ve never heard of at precisely the right moment.  Take this, which I found just earlier this week:


Published in about 1794, it was written by Samuel Harrison (1760–1812), one of the country’s principal tenors for almost 30 years, some difficulties with his voice notwithstanding: ‘the voice was at once the weakest and most pure and equal ever heard in England’ (The Harmonicon, 1830); his intonation was perfect.  ‘After George III heard him sing at one of Queen Charlotte’s musical parties at Buckingham House, he arranged for Harrison to sing the opening recitative and aria in Messiah at the 1784 Handel Commemoration festival in Westminster Abbey.  He had made his first appearance at the Three Choirs festival as principal tenor in 1781, at Gloucester. From 1786 until 1808 he sang at each of the Hereford meetings, and from 1801 to 1808 was a principal at Gloucester and Worcester as well.  The 1811 festival was managed by Harrison with others’ (Oxford DNB).


‘Signor Corri’, mentioned in the subtitle, is the influential music teacher Domenico Corri (1746–1825).  He had arrived in Britain in 1771, settling initially in Edinburgh, where he gave lessons and ran concerts for some eighteen years, before moving to London and a successful career as a music publisher.


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Bloody satire

I was looking for something election-related for today’s blogpost.  I wrote about a couple of very nice items connected to the Russian 1906 (parliamentary) election a few years ago, but I don’t think I’ve shared this before:

It’s a merciless (and rather bloodthirsty) satire of the Radical-Socialist Édouard Herriot and the Cartel des gauches during the 1928 election by the great caricaturist Sennep (i.e. Jean-Jacques Pennès, 1894–1982), strikingly printed in red and black on ‘butcher’s paper’.


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Bor’ba in Boston

A bookseller’s year is marked by the book fairs.  Summer is a quiet time, but in autumn everything starts up again.  There was York, then the ILAB Congress in Budapest, and now there’s Grasmere (a first for the ABA), Seattle, Frankfurt, INK in London (another new fair), Boston, and Chelsea.  Obviously, I can’t attend all these, so have decided this year on Boston, where I shall be exhibiting for the first time.  As I have written elsewhere, the show is my shop, a chance for collectors to see what I sell.

One of my interests is the theatre.  Another is cross-cultural material, books which document the reception of, often, Anglo-American culture in Continental Europe.  Here’s one book I intend to have on my stand in Boston, something which I cannot locate another copy of in the West:


It’s the first edition in Russian of Nobel Laureate John Galsworthy‘s third play, Strife (1909), published in Moscow in 1918, just a year after the Revolution.  While rarely staged now, the play, which features a strike in a Welsh factory and the battle between the directors and the workers, was highly successful at the time—it was voted as one of the National Theatre’s 100 most influential plays of the twentieth century—and would have proved perfect material for the early Bolshevik theatre.

John Galsworthy (1867-1933)

‘At the white-heat core of [Galsworthy’s] play are the eternal human conflicts between idealism and pragmatism, justice and mercy, the needs and rights of individuals and communities.  Two men are simultaneously its hero and antihero: the board’s chairman and the strike’s leader.  Each is honourably committed to his beliefs; each is disastrously prepared to sacrifice himself and others for the sake of his vision’ (The Guardian, 21 August 2016, on Chichester Festival Theatre’s recent production).

The striking cover and the stage designs illustrated in the book are by Vasily Denisov (1862–1921), a Symbolist artist who worked a lot in the theatre.


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A bomb of a book


As it’s Banned Books Week (and as this year the focus is ‘Celebrating Diversity’), I thought I’d post this: The Empire of the Czar; or, Observations on the social, political, and religious State of Prospects of Russia, made during a Journey through that Empire, the first edition in English of La Russie en 1839 (Paris, 1843) by the Marquis de Custine (1790–1857).  Published the same year as the French original, it has been called ‘one of the most fascinating and most instructive volumes of Russian impressions by a foreigner’ (Simon Sebag Montefiore).

‘Custine’s 1839 trip to Russia was spurred by the triumph of Tocqueville’s De la démocratie en Amérique [1835–40], where democracy is represented as the ineluctable political evolution of advance societies.  Custine may have hoped that Russia was the proof that enlightened despotism was an equally viable system …  What Custine discovered, or believed he had discovered in Russia, turned out to be of a totally different nature from what he had expected to find: a country dominated by fear of a tyrannical power served by an implacable bureaucracy, in other words a police state.  Reluctant at first to publish his impressions, he did so after four years of discreet work.  The success of the book was considerable.  The 3000 copies of the first printing sold out.  Four pirate editions came out in Brussels before the second edition appeared in Paris.  The first English edition, entitled The Empire of the Czar, was issued in the same year, as was the first German edition; both were reprinted the following year.  In Russia, Custine’s book was banned at once …’ (Vincent Giroud, St Petersburg: a Portrait of a Great City (Beinecke Library, 2003), p. 108).

It may have been banned at the time, but Custine’s book is still in print over 170 years later.  When it was selected for inclusion in the Bibliothèque nationale’s 1990 exhibition En Français dans le texte (item 262), it was described as having ‘l’effet d’une bombe’.


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This is a copy of the first edition of The art of stage make-up.  A visual aid for members of drama groups, drama schools and professional actors by Nikolai Novliansky, with illustrations by Vadim Ryndin, a large book (252 × 362 mm) which details make-up designs for the stage from 1930.


Member of the intelligentsita/bourgeoisie; Worker/Komsomolets; Country girl.

Novliansky worked at Aleksandr Tairov’s Kamerny (‘Chamber’) Theatre, a small Moscow theatre which ran from 1914–49.  Make-up had played an important part from the Theatre’s very beginning, a production of Kalidasa’s Shakuntala, ‘notable for Tairov’s use of the painted “revealed body” of the actor as a basic costuming principle …  [and in] the Kamerny’s 1916 production of Innokenty Annensky’s Famira Kifared … the actors, many of whom played satyrs and maenads, wore false breasts with painted nipples, and costumes which further counterfeited nudity by outlining muscles’ (Spencer Golub, ‘The Silver Age, 1905–1917’, A History of Russian Theatre, CUP, pp. 296–7).

During the 1920s, Tairov’s theatre was still cutting-edge, openly mocking the government.  By the end of the decade, however, Socialist Realism was beginning to take hold, and the Theatre mended its ways.  Novliansky’s books documents this change, offering both a fascinating insight into contemporary stage practice, and the evolving Soviet iconography of certain types (the intelligentsia, the worker, the Komsomolets; the activist, the prostitute, the peasant; the priest, the kulak, the Englishman).

Member of the intelligentsia

The member of the intelligentsia


The Komsomolets

An Armenian

The Armenian

An Englishman

The Englishman



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Congreve, a wanted man

There’s one in every catalogue: one book that everyone wants.  In my recent list on Shakespeare and the Stage, it was this:

Congreve 2

A 1735 edition of Congreve’s Love for Love, his most successful Restoration comedy, heavily marked up as a prompt book for performances at Norwich’s Theatre Royal.

Love for Love opened at Lincoln’s Inn Theatre in April 1695, and was in almost constant production throughout the eighteenth century.  It concerns the farcical misadventures of Valentine, an impecunious eldest son whose only way out of financial straits is to sign over his right of inheritance to his younger brother.  Valentine accepts the deal but, fearing the loss of his beloved Angelica, takes drastic action to retain his birthright.

Congreve 1

Congreve was popular in Norwich, the city’s new theatre opening in January 1758 with The Way of the World.  It operated as the New Theatre until March 1768, when it received the Royal Assent and was subsequently renamed.  The prompt book I had appears to have been in use before then, however, as a date of 1767 had been written on the first page of dialogue.  The book had been well used, the amendments, cuts, and emphases offering insight into production and staging, including cast members.

After I had apologised to at least a dozen people that the book had already been snapped up by another customer, one said: ‘You’ll have to up the price next time.’  Not necessarily.  If, as a bookseller, you receive a dozen orders from other members of the trade, then you know you’ve missed something.  But if, as on this occasion, the orders all come from private collectors and libraries, you know that you’re achieving what you set out to do: finding books that people want to buy.  And that’s immensely gratifying.


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Isaak Vladimirovich Shklovsky (1864–1935)

‘Dioneo’ was the nom de plume of Isaak Vladimirovich Shklovsky, a Russian journalist who lived in London from 1896 onwards and from where he became well known for his sketches of British life published in various Russian journals at the time.  A number of these sketches were then subsequently published as books, such as this one, Sketches of Contemporary England, from 1903:


The sketches collected here focus on contemporary political life in Britain (the House of Commons, House of Lords, Queen Victoria, elections); the life and living conditions of the poor; and—a long section—literature and the press: the Reviews (Monthly, Quarterly, etc.); the newspapers; the Canadian writer Grant Allen (1848–1899); and, written in 1898, ‘Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman’ (pp. 392–423), which offers some of the earliest Russian commentary on either writer.

As Anna Vaninskaya wrote recently, Shklovsky’s sketches ‘contain what is effectively an encyclopedic view of late Victorian and Edwardian life’; she further notes that ‘the periodical contributions and book-length compilations of correspondents such as Shklovsky, taken together with their letters, diaries and personal papers, thus constitute a vast and almost wholly untapped resource, a unique window onto late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British culture’ (‘Under Russian eyes: foreign correspondents in Edwardian Britain’, TLS, 28 November 2014, pp. 17–8).


Shklovsky was seen as the leading authority on Britain in the Russian press at the time.  After the Revolution, which he commented upon—negatively—in Russia under the Bolsheviks (in English, London, 1919), he decided to remain here, working for the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia, and acting as the London correspondent for the Russian-language Paris newspaper, Poslednie novosti.  He died in London in 1935.



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Liturgy and litigation

It’s been a few years since I blogged about Tchaikovsky, but as I sang a movement from the following piece last night, it seems apt to write something today.


This is a copy of the first edition of Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy of St John Chrysostom which, like his first suite for orchestra, was written in 1879.  And, like his coronation cantata Moskva, it has an attractive chromolithographed title-page.

The first edition is rare.  ‘When the Liturgy appeared in print early in 1879 its appearance on sale in Moscow and St Petersburg caused protests from the offices of the Director of the Imperial Chapel Choir, Nikolay Bakhmetyev, who began legal proceedings against Jurgenson, accusing him of publishing the Liturgy without the approval of the director of the chapel, and of violating a number of government and synodal decrees.  Jurgenson had 143 of his plates of the Liturgy confiscated, and Bakhmetyev prosecuted him for allegedly breaking the law.

‘Although in June 1879 the Chief Administration for Printed Matter in Moscow authorized Jurgenson to publish the Liturgy, subject to the approval of the city’s church censor, Nikolay Bakhmetyev continued to protest.  Then Pyotr Jurgenson took legal action against Bakhmetyev.  Nevertheless, the continued circulation of the composition hindered Bakhmetyev and his supporters among the clergy.  The judgement of the Interior Minister was finally made in December 1879, and this was also in favour of Jurgenson.  Eventually the confiscated plates were released in November and December 1880 on the orders of the Synod, who enacted a decree allowing the Moscow church censor to approve the publication of church music without reference to the Director of the Imperial Chapel Choir’ (Tchaikovsky Research).


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Vive la France?


This scarce satirical etching, The Beaux Nurses, refers to the controversy and protest surrounding a French theatrical company, nicknamed the ‘French Strollers’, who applied for and were granted a licence to perform at the Haymarket in the winter of 1749.  Their arrival occasioned much discontent; as the Scots Magazine reported, they were ‘bitterly pelted in the news-papers’.  Asserting their right to perform, they persisted in a show on 14 November, but were met by an audience intent on sabotage.

An eyewitness account of the incident appeared in the Monthly Review some years later  (July 1761): ‘People went early to the Theatre, as a crouded House was certain …  I soon perceived that we were visited by two Westminster Justices, Deveil and Manning.  The Leaders, that had the conduct of the Opposition, were known to be there; one of whom called aloud for the song in praise of English roast beef, which was accordingly sung in the gallery, by a person prepared for that purpose; and the whole house besides joining in the chorus, saluted the close with three huzzas!  This, Justice Deveil was pleased to say, was a riot’.

Despite the Justice’s assertions that the play was licensed by the King’s command, the crowd had come prepared to produce disruption.  They were equipped with instruments which they played discordantly as an accompaniment to their jeers, catcalls, and Francophobic songs: ‘as an attempt at speaking was ridiculous, the Actors retired, and opened instead with a grand dance of twelve men and twelve women; but even that was prepared for, and they were directly saluted with a bushel or two of peas, which made their capering very unsafe’.

Unable even to dance, and following another abortive attempt by the magistrates to assert the King’s authority, the curtain fell for the final time.  The eyewitness evidently relished the outcome, venturing ‘that at no battle gained over the French, by the immortal Marlborough, the shoutings could be more joyous than on this occasion’.  The print embodies similar sentiments; the French strollers attack British theatrical establishment—represented by an affronted Britannia—who stands between them and British theatre-goers.  In the foreground stands a perplexed Othello, lamenting the loss of his occupation, and an injured man a man lies on the floor ‘Almost kill’d for not understanding French’.

For this, and other items of theatrical interest, please see my latest e-list, Shakespeare and the Stage.


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