Or perhaps you would like to share your thoughts on who might have selected this beautiful collection of pieces?
The music department has recently acquired a really fascinating manuscript of 18th-century English anthems. 18th-century English sacred music is one of the core strengths of our music collections. Despite holding a wide range of English anthems, in manuscript as well as early and recent editions, every addition can teach us something new about this key stage of development of English music.
This particular item is interesting in many respects. It is of interest as an object, with a contemporary leather binding, the manuscript reversed and inverted, with a leather label “anthems” as well as leather reinforcements and with a contemporary shelf mark on the spine.
It is also of interest from a historical-cultural as well as musicological perspective. Sometime during the later 18th century someone responsible for performing music has collected a significant selection of English anthems, handwritten and copied out by professional copyists, to be used for performance. The choice of pieces itself gives us an insight in what was being performed at the time.
The manuscript contains three categories of composers. In addition to 18th-century pieces, which one would expect, there are several “ancient” composers, indicating a newly budding interest for early as opposed to contemporary music, and an English setting of music by Pergolesi, providing an example of the development of sacred music at the time. The way both the Italian and earlier pieces have been edited is an illustration of a completely different attitude to “early music” than what we currently know.
Because of its contents and significance it would be particularly interesting to know the provenance of this manuscript. Who selected this music? Where was it performed by whom and when? If the shelf mark, binding or anything else strikes you as being familiar, we would love to hear about it.
We would like to thank the Friends of the University Library for their generous support in acquiring this item.