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!

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