The music manuscripts acquired by the Fitzwilliam Museum after the sale in 1918 of the Aylesford Collection have recently been catalogued on the Cambridge Unversity online catalogue “Newton”.
Edward Dent, then a fellow of King’s College, had a particular interest in the music of Alessandro Scarlatti, and was able to encourage the acquisition of not only several holograph manuscript, but also music by his contemporaries. Much of the Earl of Aylesford’s collection came from his cousin Charles Jennens (1700-1773), best know today at the librettist of Handel’s Messiah. It contained a great deal of Handel, which now forms the basis of the Newman Flower collection in the Manchester Public Library.
However it was Jennen’s acquisition of music in 1742 from the library of the great patron of music in Rome, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (1667-1740) that is of importance in the Fitzwilliam collections. Most of the 22 manuscripts (bound into 17 volumes) from the Aylesford/Jennens library were originally owned by Ottoboni. Find them on Newton now!
Handel is famed for borrowing music from other composers, and since some of these borrowings are from music in the Ottoboni/Jennens collection, it seems likely that Jennens lent some of these manuscripts to Handel (see the record for Scarlatti’s Dafni.)
John H.Roberts has written an excellent history of “The Aylesford collection” in Handel collections and their history (Oxford, 1993), p. 39-85, which also includes a description of the collection and its present locations.