The New Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson

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Manuscripts: fascination and frustrations

with 14 comments

Reading a manuscript you can feel a direct contact across many years: as when I unfolded a seventeenth-century letter and found before me, on my modern notepad, the grains of fine sand used to dry the ink by the writer, long dead, all those years before. The emphases, second thoughts and whimsical decorative strokes all give you some elusive sight, not only of the creative process, but also of the mood and feelings of the writer. And then a manuscript has an infinite amount of information—most of which you cannot unlock. Hence the frustration.

Take, for example, the British Library MS of the Fables, which Bill Gray is working on: a collection of five different types of paper, clearly written at different times. It would be great if we could establish dates for them. On the back of the leaf with ‘The Reader’, for example, there is what seems to be a list of piano music to buy:

BL RLS MS 23 list

Here is a transcript – any help in decyphering the names by those who know something about nineteenth-century music-publishing would be of interest:

Augener.                 281.                 1,,50                Chil scrap book{?}

8679.                   1,,25

7608.                      50

Peters.                     983 2258.                75    .           Jugend Al[b]um[1]

2118                        50

1482                       50                Grieg.[2]

2301                       50                Schmann.{? }

1071[3]                   50                Hunter.[4]{?}


& thubil{?}  .                376.                 3,,


$9.    50.           [5]

$8           [6]


Note (July 2013): this list happily chimed with the interests of John Russell, who (in addition to the initial reactions logged in the Comments here) then undertook much additional research and has masterfully presented the results on his Music of Robert Louis Stevenson site.

[1] Edition Peters 2301 further down the list is Robert Schumann, Album für die Jugend op. 68 / Kinderszenen op. 15 für Klavier.

[2] Grieg, Nordische Tänze und Volksweisen : für Pianoforte übertragen (Leipzig: C.F. Peters, Edition Peters 1482) — this was the key to interpreting the list!

[3] possibly Rob. Schuman’s Werke / Fur Pianoforte solo revidirt von Alfred Dorffel ; mit fingersatz versehen Richard Schmidt. – Leipzig : C.F.Peters, but no absolute confirmation yet that this is 1071 in the Peters catalogue.

[4] Could this be H. Hunter, US Composer mid 19th Century?

[5] miscalculation: with the deleted top line, the total is $9.

[6] calculated by deducting $1.50 from the previous total.

Written by rdury

13/02/2013 at 4:29 pm