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Early Lithographed Music: A Study Based on the H. Baron Collection.

Michael Twyman is highly respected among printing historians for his Lithography, 1800-1850 (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), and Early Lithographed Books (London: Farrand Press and Private Libraries Association, 1990), which has a chapter on "Music Method Books." Early Lithographed Music further surveys both the printing technology and the publishing record. It also includes a catalogue of the music lithography collection assembled by the late London music antiquarian, Hermann Baron, now at the University of Reading, whose roughly twelve hundred items chronologically emphasize the first fifty years following Alois Senefelder's invention of the process just before 1800, and geographically tell of the proliferation across Europe. Twyman fears that the collection may not document the main patterns. But we will not know this until we have more such studies, catalogues to tell us what there is, and analyses to tell us what to look for. There may be nothing from the United States, and while this is too bad, the blackface minstrelsy lithographs from New York around 1830 clearly deserve their own study.

Lithographs were faster to print than engravings - the presswork was simpler and the ink dried more quickly, although the printing surfaces wore out more easily (a point well illustrated on pp. 198-99). The images could also be conceived more flexibly (see, e.g., the range of lettering styles on pp. 166-67). Underlaid text, for instance, could use whatever lettering forms might be right for the intended singers - roman, gothic, italic, or other, and any style of these.

The graphic ideal was still that determined by music engravers; after all, they had learned over many years how music was read. Lithographed notation is best when it looks as much as possible like engraved notation, although it can also work well by resembling manuscript copies (see pp. 40, 135). But lithographed clefs in particular, no matter how painstakingly drawn, can never achieve the congruence of those in engravings, while the hand-drawn note heads seem too often overly large or overly long. Lithographed music can also look rather amateurish (I cannot imagine musicians enjoying p. 158, although this particular music may have been intended to be taught by rote; as for pp. 387-90, one can argue that the editions in question were intended to amuse purchasers rather than to be sight-read by performers). Display lettering on the staff (as on p. 229) seems uncommon, probably not because musicians might resent any poaching on their space but because engravers would never think to do this. In time, of course, it was the fine detail of the lithograph that prevailed, leaving Beatrice Warde to complain that "the terrible perfections of lithography" had ruined the musical page.

Twyman's perspectives are those not of musicology but of the graphic arts. As his work honors the craftsman's eye and hand, the study of the historical evidence of music becomes the richer. His points are well illustrated with facsimiles from the Baron collection, and his appendix on "Identifying Lithographed Music" (pp. 501-20) is invaluable. His work is also groundbreaking: his topic, like so much of the history of the music printing crafts, stands roughly where printing in general stood in the sixteenth century, as a "black art," understood by a handful of respected artisans who described it to their apprentices but never in print. Twyman is respected both as a craftsman and as a historian of craftsmanship, and it shows in this sumptuous and well-researched book.

D.W. KRUMMEL University, of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
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Author:Krummel, D.W.
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1997
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