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Ms. Coll. 143

Songs in the English language, 1675-1870: A Finding Aid.

Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Harvard Depository
Call No.: Ms. Coll. 143
Repository: Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Title: Songs in the English language,
Date(s): 1675-1870.
Quantity: 1 collection (4 linear feet (8 boxes)
Abstract: Collection of over 2000 English-language songs published between 1675 and 1870.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Gift of John M. Ward, 2010.

Processing Information:

Ellen Exner with assistance from Christina Linklater and Melanie Wisner.

Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Songs in the English language (Ms. Coll. 143). Isham Collection, Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard University.

Biographical / Historical

Publications such as these were the primary means for distributing (usually solo) vocal music with simple accompaniment for domestic use. There is a rich variety of text sources and genres within this collection, which also contains a wealth of information about changing performance practices and musical style. Spanning the reigns of four kings and one queen, the music in these pages offers a rare, ready-made opportunity for detailed scholarly research into a number of topics such as: song (art and otherwise), literature, publishing, paper types, printing technology, marketing, collecting, circulation, domestic music-making, individual singers (male as well as female), venues, morals, opera, theater, genre, and notation. They bear witness to nearly a century and a half of song composition as well as musical consumer culture in the English-speaking world.


Arranged in approximately alphabetical order by composer's last name, title of dramatic work and first line; headings of individual songsheets do not form part of the alphabetical sequence.

Scope and Contents

This collection preserves over 2000 English-language songs published between 1675 and 1870. Most were printed in London, though there are examples from Dublin, Glasgow, and Edinburgh as well. There are ballads, popular songs, romances, pastorals, patriotic songs, hunting songs, bawdy songs, sea songs, political songs, and music from England's many theaters and pleasure gardens. Most of the pieces carry the name of their composer and many also identify the singer who first made the song famous as well as where it was sung. Generally, each sheet transmits a single song scored for voice with keyboard accompaniment; frequently, in a convention lost to time, sheets also include transpositions of the melody for performance with transverse flute (also known as German flute). The use of guitar accompaniment is nearly as common. The opportunities for inquiry and discovery are great. Some of the pieces here survive in many known exemplars while others are completely unique to this collection.

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