Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Niagara Lind

Hello everyone! Greetings and salutations. This is the first post for this blog focused on early American popular music and it's publication in the form of folio sized sheet music prior to about 1887. I'm hoping it starts discussions on prominent issues, first editions, title page lithographers and their artists, and the way an image or a lyric can open a window to an important part of American history and social/cultural development.

To begin with, I'm thinking of the Niagara Lind. There is a Jenny Lind litho of her standing in front of what must be Niagara Falls. I'd like some more context on this illustration if anyone has it. I'm assuming it may be representative of that part of her American tour that took her up north and I think it's post-Barnum, after he was cashed out of his contract with her. I'd love to trade for this piece if anyone has it available. Please let me know.


  1. Let the adventure begin, my friend.

  2. This is a wonderful contribution to the field of collectible sheet music.

  3. The most significant ongoing case of mis-diagnosis in American popular sheet music publication may well be what constitutes a 'first edition' of the great Southern anthem Dixie. Written by a northerner who pronounced in the title his desire - I Wish I Was In Dixie, the application of 'first edition' status has bamboozled people since sheet music began to be collected seriously, at least 100 years ago.

    Harry Dichter, in his groundbreaking volume Handbook of Early American Sheet Music, states unequivocally that the first edition of Dixie was made from engraved plates and a copy of that edition is in his book. He was examining copyright deposits in the Library of Congress and finding that in virtually every case the engraved editions of songs preceded editions printed in Music Type (Stereotype). It makes perfect sense that the more expensive route of hand engraving would come first and when popularity had been established the less expensive Music Type would follow.

    With Dixie, the early 1860 music publications that typically show up are printed from Music Type. They are not engraved. They followed what has become known as the 'first authorized' or 'first northern' engraved edition. That 'first' has the following primary points: published by Firth, Pond and Co. in New York, 1860, written and composed expressly for Bryants Minstrels by Dan D. Emmett, arranged for the Piano Forte by W.L. Hobbs, 6 pp., page 2 and page 6 blank, plate no. 4924. There was another version published with engraved plates and identical cover but without the blank back. Look for the blank back to help determine first edition.

    The Music Type edition that followed had a printed back with 1860 and a No. 1 at the top. This has caused the problem, I believe. The No. 1 refers to puiblishing a set of songs and ballads and is not representative of 'first edition'. A later edition had No. 3 on the back as the songs and ballads developed. When music publishers named the edition they did it on the music front, not the back, with rare exceptions.

    Complicating 'first edition' or 'initial state' is the fact there were two pirated editions that were published without credit to Daniel Decatur Emmett, the composer, and both preceded the 'first northern'. The first 'pirated' was published by P.P. Werlein in New Orleans crediting words to J. Newcomb and music to J.C. Viereck. The second 'pirated' edition gives credit for lyrics to W.H. Peters Esq.

    Both pirated versions are very rare. The first northern on engraved plates is quite scarce, especially with the blank back, and the Music Type editions are reasonable available. I've only ever seen one of the pirated versions come up for sale. Maybe three or four of the 'first northern'. I've probably seen 20 or 25 of the Music Type editions.

  4. "The bloody deed is done", Macbeth's line about offing King Duncan, may apply to le petite mort at Christie's this morning. That idea that important publications of American sheet music, these artifacts, historical documents and original prints, can ever again be seen as 'insignificant ephemera' hopefully dead. The half million dollars that some citizen paid today for Muller #1, the first edition, initial state, of the Star Spangled Banner sheet music, may well have accomplished this deed.

  5. STAR SPANGLED BANNER - 1814, Joseph Carr, Baltimore music publisher, first edition/initial state. Primary point of first edition is the misspelled subtitle, 'A Pariotic Song'.

    Christie's auction sale in Rockefeller Plaza at about 11:00 a.m. EST for the previously unimaginable price, including premium, of $506,500.00, should set in motion more excitement about the avocation of collectible American popular sheet music than any event since the naming of the Nation Anthen in 1931. This decision helped trigger the first significant surge in sheet music collecting. By the 1940's most serious collectors of American sheet music were after every early edition of the SSB (Star Spangled Banner) they could get their hands on. We haven't seen that much interest in the publication of a single song before or since.

    It's incredibly exciting, really, that more attention may be placed on music publications as documents of the time. So what about the other early editions of the SSB? Which are significant? Joseph Muller's book The Star Spangled Banner, Words and Music, Issued between 1814-1864, is the primary text for determining order of publication on roughly 50 different editions issued over the first 50 years.

    There were only 500 copies of this book printed, published by G.A. Baker and Co, N.Y, 1935. It may soon be hard to locate. Perhaps there will be a reprint in the coming years. The information in this volume is indispensable.

    Here are some early editions that are clearly important, for various reasons:

    1. Muller #1a - amended or corrected first edition with more errors, listing B. Key as author instead of F.S. Key.
    2. Muller #2 - the true second edition (1814-16) is the first illustrated with a vignette at top of the unfurled stars and stripes. Published by Bacon in Philadelphia.
    3. Muller #3 - first New York printing (1816-17), by Geib and Co. on Maiden Lane.
    4. Muller #4 - second illustrated (1821), published by Carr in Baltimore with vignette on top.
    5. Muller #7 - third illustrated, with vignette of cannon on top, pub. by Cole of Baltimore in 1825.
    6. Muller #15 - Atwill in N.Y. (1843) may be the first time Francis S. Key's name appears on a sheet music folio and also may be the first fully illustrated edition, matching Muller #22a, though I'm uncertain of this.
    7. Muller #29 - published by Oliver Ditson in Boston, this edition features a cover design by Winslow Homer, one of his first lithographs.
    8. Muller #31c - Peters in Cincinnati released what may be the first full color title page in 1856.
    9. Muller #49c - This edition (1861) was brought out by Ditson in 1861 and had a 5th verse by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. the doctor, poet and father of the supreme court justice.
    10. Muller #50 - this edition by Russell and Tolman in Boston, also 1861, had a color lithographic front by Louis Prang, one of the early illustrations by the famous chromolithographer.

    There are many other valuable issues of the SSB in the first half century of publications. These are just a few.