I’ve just written a summary, partly as a record for myself and my department, but also as a progress report for all the researchers and librarians that I’ve been talking to about my latest research project. One year on, it felt like a good time to write a short summary of progress so far. Read it here. (It’s on a separate page on this blog – see the tabs above.)
It would appear that the lady cataloguer who listed St Andrews University Library’s legal deposit music, was actually English! (I’m not about to spill the beans yet, though.) I’ve had great fun finding what she borrowed – books as well as music – and I’ve even tracked down her immediate family. But BEST of all, this morning, was finding another brother. I just knew there had to be one.
And another surprise this morning was finding that, far from my initial perception that students didn’t borrow music, some borrowed an absolute mountain of music. An incredible amount! (Which means I’ll need to check whether they went on borrowing it after 1814, ho-hum. Just when I thought I only needed to investigate the professors and their friends…)
Eventually, I will have a very full picture of what the staff and students at St Andrews thought of their music collection, in the early 19th century. You’re in for a surprise!
Wednesdays are my research days, so yesterday saw me getting up at 5.30 am to go to St Andrews on a (musicologically speaking) field-trip. I discovered that, way back in 1826, the lady cataloguer of the Copyright Music Collection had what we would now call her own library account! (Well, a professor borrowed on her behalf, but she had a page in one of the books.)
My interest is in the music and the use made of it, but I must admit it was quite exciting to get a glimpse into what interested this woman when she wasn’t writing up the music catalogue!
(LATER, MONTHS LATER)
I’m astonished that this was my most popular posting! I now know so much more about this lady cataloguer. She borrowed a lot of books, especially on her favourite subjects. She identified shells, was cited in books, married in middle-age and died at a ripe old age in Islington. And … wait for this – she and I were born in the same parish in Lancaster. Quite a remarkable coincidence!
Thinking about a recent Call for Papers, I had an idea of a new angle from which to view my current research. I’ve already been looking at late Georgian music composed by women, but what if I analysed which books were used by women actually learning music?
Now, I do happen to have many pages of data, which I can interrogate in different ways. There is nothing more satisfying than – having spent hours gathering what looks like the most insignificant data – getting back home and carefully tabulating it to answer specific questions. I’ve spent days transcribing minutiae, asking myself if it’s the best use of fieldtrip time, and always concluding that yes, I do need to do this – it’s the only way to get the data that I can then interrogate, so it’s totally justified. Detailed data is what I do. I must, however, get back to St Andrews to continue capturing more data before I can see the whole picture. And I can’t go for another eleven days – so tantalising!
But to get back to the new idea … By the end of yesterday evening I had produced a new document, sorted out quite a bit of data, and there are some clear results emerging.
I probably have enough to submit an abstract, but I won’t rush into it – I’d rather sleep on it.
Confirmed speakers include:-
While taking a few days leave, I finally finished a great book about 18th century women composers of songs, by Leslie Ritchie.
There’s loads of fascinating information there, most particularly about the literary side of song-writing. I think it’s fair to say that the author’s strength is on the literary, “song-writing”, rather than the musical composition of songs. My interest in literary matters has been lifelong, but my own academic background is from a musicology discipline rather than literature, so I devoured the book enthusiastically, but didn’t gain as much from the music point of view. I didn’t always agree with the interpretation of the analysis (though the harmonic analysis itself wasn’t faulty) – and I’m off to inspect a copy of Ann [Anne] Young’s Elements of Music this afternoon because I don’t think the “songs” about or by women were actually songs at all. They look like dance tunes to me. And I rather suspect that when the former owner of the British Library’s later edition marked one item as “a woman” and another as “a man”, she might just have been noting someone connected with the dance, or someone she heard play it, rather than whoever wrote it. Either way, dedicating a dance-tune to a woman or calling it “Lady Whatsit’s Favourite”, has no real significance. You named tunes after people to pay them a compliment.
But enough of my nitpicking. The other interesting idea appeared early on in Ritchie’s book, and that was an attempt to unpack the idea of “separate spheres of influence”. To understand that, I had to read the introduction and first article in another book, No more separate spheres! : a next wave American studies reader, edited by Davidson and Hatcher (2002). There I learned that the idea arose in 19th century America, thanks to a writer named Alexis deTocqueville (Democracy in America, 1840).
Suffice to say here that we would be wrong to declare that all women moved in the domestic sphere, and all men in the public, commercial sphere, for two or even three reasons: firstly, there is a continuum. It’s not one or the other. Secondly, if we continue to think along these lines, we’re continuing a concept that is now very outdated. And thirdly, although we say “all women”, in this context there’s the tendency to mean fairly well-educated white, middle-class women … but their “sphere” or area of influence was very different from women of other classes and ethnicities.
Having said all that, I’m left with one observation. Who used the songs in the University of St Andrews’ early music legal deposit collection? Notwithstanding all these very valuable and thought-provoking observations, I put it to you thus: even if they just sang the songs, they were people who could read, and whoever played the piano/harp part could also read music. They borrowed the music by the kind offices of the university professors. White, middle-class, educated women borrowing music? In Georgian times, in St Andrews? In all probability, yes.
Not a blogpost about teaching and learning, or even about librarianship – just an update.
October 2012 – October 2015 I was seconded as 40% postdoctoral researcher to the AHRC-funded Bass Culture project, which resulted in the Historical Music of Scotland database at hms.scot
October 2015 – April 2016 my secondment continued to enable me to start a new research project of my own, Claimed from Stationers’ Hall, in which I’m investigating the post-deposit history of historic legal deposit music.
This was effectively a part-time sabbatical, and it’s been great – I have really got my teeth into this new area of research, visiting the collection at the University of St Andrews once a week and giving a paper about it at the IAML (UK and Ireland) Annual Study Weekend in Manchester a couple of weeks ago. (I’m repeating it at Musica Scotica 2016, and I have more engagements lined up in St Andrews to share the story of their collection with anyone who’ll listen!)
April 2016 – July 2018. My secondment has been extended, now for one day a week over 28 months. I’m ecstatic! I really do feel this endorses me as a researcher, and I’m obviously going to keep working on grant applications, as well as delving more deeply into the St Andrews material now that I have more time in which to do it. Not to mention other collections!
My name is Karen and I am a researcher …
I’m quite interested in the early history of Scottish libraries. My own current part-time sabbatical is concerned with the published music that legal deposit libraries (the University of St Andrews in particular) claimed from Stationers’ Hall in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and I’m particularly curious to know what happened to the music, and how much it was actually borrowed from the university libraries who received it.
Now, St Andrews isn’t that far from Dundee – or Innerpeffray, come to that – so I was interested to see a link to a new blog from the University of Dundee’s Centre for Scottish Culture. PhD student Jill Dye is studying this historic library, and posted an informative blog entry a couple of weeks ago. You can read it here:-
This might be about a different kind of library, and books rather than music, but I’m still interested in this important part of Scottish library history. We both touch on book history, though mine is a story of books containing music, more than books containing words. Indeed, the books about learning music were also preserved carefully at St Andrews University Library. I wonder how much overlap there might be of that particularly niche repertoire?!