Saturday, 21 September 2013

A Morning in the Stacks with Pirates Wright and Walsh

I spent a totally satisfying morning at the University Library today, trying to fathom what publishers Wright and Walsh were up to in the 1720s/1730s.  Walsh had a reputation for piracy even at that time.  Wright's would similarly have been fairly obvious, but was re-exposed by Frank Kidson just over a century ago.

I've already shared some of my musings about these guys.  I can't say I've found out much more - though I've handwritten pages of notes already today.  (Sometimes it's easier to lay the page out and make connections, when you're just wielding a pen!)

So, I have three main questions:-

  • Firstly, is the untitled Wright book in Dundee, no more than a Walsh book without a title page?  Searching Fleischmann's Irish tune bibliography and the online Early American Secular Music and Its European Sources suggests that virtually the entire contents can be traced in contemporary tune-books by Walsh, with some also in Wright's Aria di Camera, or Wright's 1740-2 Compleat Collection - itself one of Wright's piracies.  Way back in 1898, Moffat opined in his Minstrelsy of Ireland that the untitled book contains 'unmistakeable evidence to show that the work is one of Wright's publications'.  My guess is that he was quoting some writing by Kidson, prior to the latter's book, British Music Publishers.  Since I seem to be the only person to have discovered that the untitled 'Wright' book has exactly the same contents as a Walsh publication, the only thing that would convince me of this 'unmistakeable evidence' is some visible difference between the two, in the printing or typeface.  I've spent an hour or so perusing the indexes of the Musical Times and Singing Class Circular for Kidson's 'New Lights upon old Tunes' series and other writings, without finding any mention of the 'oblong quarto' to which Moffat alluded.
  • Secondly, what connection do these volumes (or this volume) have with Wright's Aria di Camera?  Did Walsh or Wright just draw upon the repertoire?  Even if there's no argument about the fact that Wright published the Aria di Camera (yes, 'Aria', not 'Arie'), then can we say that Walsh (or Wright) picked and chose items out of it?  They'd have to be the same settings.  So I need to see the Aria, too, to see if they are the same arrangements.
  • Thirdly, WHICH two earlier volumes were drawn together to make up Walsh/Wright?  I haven't identified them yet. Yet!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Right Mr Wright all right, but This is All Wrong!

Remember I was telling you about Daniel Wright, the other day?  Well, I haven't exactly gotten to the bottom of his story, because it's more complex than I imagined.

I found someone had written a dissertation about a series of publications published by a prolific London publisher named John Walsh.  And the contents of one volume exactly matched the contents of the Daniel Wright book that is in Dundee, minus its cover.  So, who compiled the compilation, Walsh or Wright?  Kidson says the two publishers were rivals, and Wright is known to have pirated Walsh.

But it gets more complicated. Whoever did it first, they put two collections together, one on the front and one on the back (or vice versa) of each page.  I haven't yet established the identity of the two collections.  I've found tunes that appear in THIS book and a Wright book of country dances, but the latter has only a melody line, and I haven't yet looked at any Walsh books.  

Moreover, there's another compilation by Wright, which doesn't appear to have any connection with Walsh, and I need to compare the contents of that, with Daniel Wright's untitled (or John Walsh's titled) collection.
Give me time!

I had a small disappointment this afternoon, though. The dissertation author mentioned an unpublished manuscript by Wright.  As you might guess, I was intrigued, and followed up the reference very carefully.  Only to have my anticipation dashed to a thousand pieces.  It isn't an unpublished manuscript - they've seen a reference to the untitled PUBLICATION in Dundee, and jumped to the erroneous conclusion that it's an unpublished manuscript.  The fact that it's in Dundee with the same catalogue number, is proof enough that the untitled publication is just that.  A publication with the front pages missing.

Takes me back to a memorable occasion many decades ago, when I was eagerly anticipating seeing an Augustinian plainsong manuscript at the British Museum.  I sat, pencil and notebook in front of me, almost salivating at the thought of the tasty treat I was about to have placed in front of me.  Instead, I was apologetically handed a slip.  

"Lost in enemy action."

I don't know what's worse! A manuscript that used to exist, or one that never existed at all!

More about Pirate Daniel Wright anon.......