Tag Archives: collecting

Of Sammelbands and Sheet Music


“See at Your Feet a Suppliant One” As Sung By Miss Ella Wren, In Balfe’s Grand Opera of the Bohemian Girl. An example of Confederate sheet music

Music has always played a powerful role in cultures around the world. Now sheet music provides a glimpse at people’s daily lives and illustrates changes in fashion, dress, and even behavioral expectations. Collecting sheet music isn’t just for music lovers; it’s an engaging pursuit that frequently intersects with history and literature.

The first music to appear in a printed volume was in the Codex spalmorum (1457). But the work didn’t include the actual notes; instead the text was printed with blank space to manually add the music to each manuscript! It wasn’t until 1473, with the publication of the Constance gradual in Germany, that music appeared fully printed. Three years later, Ulrich Hahn published Missale secundum consuetudinem curie romane, which included music printed with woodcuts. He claimed to be the first to print music, but most experts agree the Constance gradual was the true first. Soon after, missals, graduals, and other religious texts began popping up all over Europe, and many contained printed music.

The difficulty with printing music is that it generally requires multiple print runs: one to print the staff lines, and another to print the actual notes and notations. Hahn and his successors got around this issue by using woodcuts. Eventually, however, new printing technologies–namely moveable type and lithography–were adopted for music as well. (Famous revolutionary and publisher Isaiah Thomas was the first to use moveable type to print music in the United States. More on him later this month!)


Illustrations and themes of antiquarian sheet music can be an uncomfortable reminder of the past. This item, from the Bohemian Club, is quite rare with none listed in OCLC.

By the 1820’s, however, the most common method for printing music was engraved plates. This has produced numerous bibliographic obstacles for collectors and scholars today. First, not all sheet music bore copyright information in the first place. Next, publishers would often store the plates for long periods of time and simply use them, unaltered, for later reprints whenever they needed to replenish their stock. And sometimes they sold these plates to other publishers, who didn’t bother emending copyright information when it did exist. Sometimes the plate numbers can be used to determine an approximate date, but that’s largely based on how much is known about the particular engraver or publisher. Collectors of nineteenth-century sheet music, then, must put their detective skills to the test on a regular basis–and be comfortable with some uncertainty about publication information.

While many antiquarian book collectors would shy away from works that are not definitive first editions, this factor is less important with sheet music. These items were printed with the intention of being ephemera, and of being used. They often bear the marks of use, such as tears, smudges, wear, and mending with tape or sewing thread. Music printed in the early nineteenth century and earlier tends to be more durable than later sheet music because it was printed on paper made of rag rather than wood pulp. Meanwhile, during the heyday of American sheet music, it was common to print sheet music as newspaper supplements. These items, printed on thin, cheap paper, are often quite fragile if they survived at all. Collectors must be quite mindful of preservation issues to extend the longevity of their sheet music.

Highlights from Our Sheet Music Collection

A Complete Dictionary of Music

Complete_Dictionary_Music_Thomas_BusbyThomas Busby, author of A Complete Dictionary of Music, began his musical career at a young age. After being rejected as too old to be a chorister by Westminster Abbey organist Benjamin Cooke, he went on to study under Samuel Champness, Charles Knyvett, and Jonathan Battishill. Busby’s first musical venture was music to accompany William Kenrick’s play The Man the Master. This remained incomplete during his lifetime. His next pursuit, an oratorio for Alexander Pope’s Messiah, occupied Busby intermittently for several years. He published a musical dictionary with Samuel Arnold in 1786, along with a serial called The Divine Harmonist. Busby also published the first music periodical in England, The Monthly Musical Journal. His A Complete Dictionary of Music went through several editions during his lifetime.

A Sheet Music Sammelband

Sheet_Music_SammelbandOccasionally also called a nonce-volume, a sammelband is a collection of works that were originally published separately and have since been bound together. A musician or music enthusiast might assemble a sammelband of favorite pieces, while music teachers might put them together to teach students specific skills in a set progression. This particular sammelband contains 43 pieces, ranging from waltzes and quadrilles to country dances, sonatas, and operas. It includes a handwritten “Contents” at the front. Much of the music was composed for the piano forte, so the original owner likely played this delightful instrument.

“Carrie Bell”

Carrie_Bell_Confederate_Sheet_MusicCaptain WC Capers, who wrote the words to “Carrie Bell,” was formerly of the “Macon Volunteers” and had served in the Florida Indian Wars (1836). During the Civil War, he commanded Company G, 1st LA Heavy Artillery Regiment of the CSA. In July 1863, Capers was promoted to Major. He saw service at Vicksburg and elsewhere in the South. Confederate sheet music such as “Carrie Bell” was much more frequently published via lithography instead of engraved plates because metal was such an important commodity during the war–it simply wasn’t available for making engraved plates.

“The Ivy Green”

Ivy-Green-Charles-DickensThough “The Ivy Green” makes its first appearance in Chapter Six of The Pickwick Papers, Kitton informs us that the piece wasn’t written expressly for the novel. The favorite setting for the piece was by veteran Henry Russell, who said he received the whopping sum of ten shillings for the composition. Dickens frequently incorporated popular music into his works. He also occasionally wrote his own pieces, such as the satirical ballad “The Fine Old English Gentlemen,” which he penned for The Examiner and said should be sung at all conservative dinners. Meanwhile, Dickens’ extraordinary popularity meant that his novels often took on lives of their own, and people also composed their own musical pieces based on Dickens’ works.


Looking Back at 2013, and Looking Forward to 2014!


This year has been a terrific one here at Tavistock Books, and we have you to thank for that! We appreciate your being a part of our community, and we look forward to building that community with you in the coming year. To that end, here’s a look back at the ten most popular blog articles of 2013. It came as no surprise that Charles Dickens was a favorite, as were William Shakespeare and articles about collecting rare books:

  1. Why Did Dickens Write Ghost Stories for Christmas?
  2. Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare!
  3. The Two Endings of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations
  4. Meet Dr. Erin Blake, Curator of Art and Special Collections at the Folger Library!
  5. Alexander Pope’s Legacy of Satire and Scholarship
  6. Edgar Allan Poe: Creator of Enduring Terror and Literary Masterpieces
  7. A Brief History of True Crime Literature
  8. A Brief History of Broadsides
  9. Charles Dickens Does Boston
  10. The Benefits of Bibliography

Other favorites were recaps of events in the antiquarian world, such as intrepid assistant and Tavistock Books’ scholarship recipient Travis Low’s recap of Rare Book School. We’ll be sure to keep the updates coming, starting with with the two California book fairs: San Francisco (February 1-2) and Pasadena (February 7-9). Watch our website and blog for more information.

What’s Ahead for 2014

Many of you have graciously and thoughtfully offered blog article suggestions and other feedback. Therefore you’ll soon be seeing articles about a wide variety of bookish topics, from early American bindings to the history of nursing, from tips on collecting sheet music to a look back at Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Have an idea for a blog post or a question about rare books? We can’t wait to hear it! You’re invited to share it in the “Comments” section of any blog or to contact us via phone or email. You’ll also find us on Facebook and Twitter.


Flights of Fancy: Collecting Vintage Airline Posters


Summer is long gone, and with it have gone the days of leisurely summer vacations. But collectors can recapture these moments and explore the history of aviation with vintage airline travel posters.

The earliest aviation posters, which date to the mid nineteenth century, did not advertise air travel, but the exploits of hot air balloonists. With the introduction of planes in the early twentieth century, posters were an effective means of advertising exhibitions and air shows. During World War I, aviation posters offered a subtle form of propaganda: the novelty and excitement of air travel attracted new recruits, and the military’s large-scale use of airplanes was an imposing sight unto itself. Commercial airlines began using posters to advertise in the 1920’s, but it wasn’t until the 1950’s and 1960’s that the airlines started producing posters that advertised both the excitement and comfort of air travel.

Collecting Vintage Airline Posters

For collectors, these collectible posters recapture the excitement and romance of air travel. They are also an interesting way to trace the history of aviation. Collectors often build collections around a specific airline, artist, destination, or time period.

Northwest_Orient_747FThe posters from now defunct airlines tend to be more sought after than those from companies that still exist. Pan American World Airways (PanAm) posters, for example, are particularly beloved. The airline started in 1927 with a single route from Key West to Havana, but soon became the leading international airline in the world, a distinction it held till iGolf-Worldwide_Pan_Americants collapse in 1991. Unlike other airlines, PanAm created posters for both its commercial and cargo planes. Smaller regional airlines also hold their own allure. Posters from the relatively obscure Jersey Airways in Britain and from Western Airlines and Northwest Orient Airlines in the US all offer charming travel posters. These airlines often have a relatively short history, so their posters can be more scarce.


Some collectors focus on existing airlines. Swissair, founded in 1931 after the merger of two Swiss airlines, has long printed beautiful posters. The airline is a favorite among aviation enthusiasts because it consistently stays at the forefront of technology. Swissair was among the first to use DC-2’s, and it claims to be the first airline to employ stewardesses (1935). And United Airlines has also published a plethora of marvelous airline posters. In the early to mid 1970’s the airline produced a well-known series that evokes American history and freedom.

Meanwhile, a love of a specific destination motivates many collectors to create destination-themed galleries. Tropical locales like Hawaii or Tahiti are perennial favorites, as are more exotic destinations like the Philippines, Bahia, and Korea. Similarly, collectors may focus on an individual aircraft. United Airlines advertised its adoption of the 747 with three-dimensional foam boards.


Caring for Vintage and Rare Posters

Collectors often wonder about the best ways to store and protect their rare and vintage posters. It’s actually perfectly fine to display your posters, so long as you take a few precautions. Use UV resistant Singapore_Japan_Airlinesglass or Plexiglass to protect your travel posters from damage from both sunlight and fluorescent lighting. If you decide to matte or back the poster, be sure to use only acid-free, archival quality materials. If you frame the poster without a matte, place a spacer between the poster and the frame, so that the poster and the glass are not touching. Otherwise, humidity can get trapped between the poster and the glass, and the poster will get stuck to the glass. Some posters are linen backed for preservation or restoration purposes. Well-executed linen backing can increase a vintage poster’s value, but it’s best done by professionals.

When your collection exceeds your wall space, you’ll need to store your posters safely. Ideally, posters are stored flat in acid-free sleeves, which will protect them from dust, moisture, and decomposition. It’s best to store each poster in its own sleeve; posters can leach chemicals onto one another, causing discoloration and decay. If flat storage isn’t an option, you can roll posters in acid-free tubes. Over time your posters may begin to curl, so you may have to flatten them if you decide to frame, photograph, or sell them later.

This month we’re pleased to offer a list of airline promotional and travel posters. We invite you to peruse the list! Please contact us if you have inquiries about any item.




Oscar Wilde, Dickens Detractor and “Inventor” of Aubrey Beardsley

“I’ll be a poet, a writer, a dramatist. Somehow or other I’l be famous, and if not famous, I’ll be infamous.” –Oscar Wilde

Oscar-WildeBorn on October 16, 1854 in Dublin, Ireland, Oscar Wilde is perhaps remembered more for his sparkling wit, larger-than-life personality, and historic trial than for his literary achievements. But the author made his mark on the literary world not only through his prolific career as a journalist, novelist, and dramatist, but also through his sometimes bizarre relationships with other literary figures. These interactions make collecting Wilde an even more engaging pursuit.

Love Lost between Wilde and Bram Stoker

Wilde’s mother, Lady Jane, was a formidable author in her own right. She often kept literary company, and her circle of friends soon came to include Bram Stoker. Stoker soon met Florence Balcombe, a legendary beauty who had previously been involved with Wilde. Accounts of Balcombe’s relationship with Wilde vary; he claimed the two had been engaged. At any rate, Wilde was less than pleased when he learned that Stoker had proposed to Balcombe. He wrote to Balcombe, stating that he would never return to Ireland again. Wilde mostly kept to his word, returning to Ireland only for brief visits.


But Stoker and Wilde’s relationship stretched beyond this inopportune love triangle. The two had gone to school together; Stoker even recommended Wilde for membership into the university’s Philosophical Society. And after Stoker and Balcombe had been married and Wilde had had sufficient time to lick his wounds, Stoker reinitiated the relationship. After Wilde was convicted of sodomy, Stoker even visited him. Yet Stoker also fastidiously removed all mention of Wilde from his published and unpublished texts, and it’s only recently that critics have begun to see Wilde’s influence in Stoker’s great novel Dracula.

Wilde Rejects Dickens’ Legacy…Or Does He?

Old Curiosity Shop-Little NellWilde heaped praise upon Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. He even called Aurora Leigh “the greatest work in our literature.” But he was less than complimentary when it came to the great Charles Dickens; Wilde is famous for saying of Charles Dickens The Old Curiosity Shop, “One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell and not to dissolve into tears…of laughter.” Wilde found Dickens overly sentimental and wished to separate himself from this aspect of Dickens’ Victorian England. Yet he never fully succeeded in escaping Dickens’ shadow (indeed, few authors of the century did).

Critics have pointed to similarities in the ways that Wilde and Dickens portray London, and Wilde even makes allusions to Dickens’ works–most notably Little Dorritt. Little Dorritt’s Mrs. General repeats the phrase “Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes, and prism” to her young charges, and the phrase “prunes and prism” soon became closely associated with her character. Is it any coincidence, then, that Wilde chooses the name “Ms. Prism” for the proper governess in The Importance of Being Earnest? Even though Wilde didn’t subscribe to Dickens’ sentimental style, it’s likely that he had great respect for Dickens, as Wilde himself aspired to the same international acclaim that the Inimitable One had achieved.

An Outlandish Claim Spurred by Public Rivalry

Beardsley-Salome-WildeIn April 1893, an up and coming artist was moved by the French publication of Oscar Wilde’s Salome. He drew Salome with St. John’s head, and the illustration became one of several that would accompany Joseph Pennell’s article on him in the first number of The Savoy. The artist, Aubrey Beardsley, contacted Wilde about illustrating the translation of Salome. Wilde responded in kindness, sending Beardsley an inscribed edition that read “For Aubrey: for the only artist who knows what the dance of seven veils is, and can see that invisible dance. Oscar” It wasn’t outright rejection, but it wasn’t an enthusiastic invitation, either.

Then Beardsley was contracted to illustrate Lord Alfred Douglas‘ English translation of Salome. Wilde initially called Beardsley’s illustrations for the work “too Japanese,” pointing out that the work was more Byzantine. Wilde then took his criticism a step further, saying that Beardsley’s art resembled “naughty scribbles a precocious boy makes on the margins of his copybook.” The rivalry exploded; Beardsley published caricatures of Wilde, and Wilde made the preposterous claim that he had “invented Aubrey Beardsley.” In reality, Wilde had simply worried all along that Beardsley’s brilliance would overshadow his own.

Mutual Admiration from a Distance

In November 1879, George Bernard Shaw met Oscar Wilde at Lady Jane’s London home. The two had trouble interacting, though Wilde clearly had good intentions toward Shaw. A few years later, on July 6, 1888, Wilde attended a meeting of the Fabian Society, likely at Shaw’s invitation. Artist Walter Crane spoke on “The Prospects of Art under Socialism,” which soon moved Wilde to write The Soul of Man under Socialism. Meanwhile over the years Shaw and Wilde maintained a pleasant relationship, albeit from a distance. They frequently exchanged books and letters and openly complimented each other’s works.

Shaw frequently defended Wilde against his critics, and he again rallied to Wilde’s defense when he was arrested for sodomy. Shaw was adamant that “never was there a man less an outlaw” than Wilde. Shaw and other writers put together a petition for Wilde’s early release, but it found surprisingly little support and was eventually dropped. As public opinion turned against Wilde and eventually forgot him entirely, Shaw still insisted on reminding people of Wilde’s greatness. He regularly mentioned him in drama reviews and remained fascinated with Wilde’s work for the rest of his life. When Frank Harris undertook his (somewhat controversial) biography of Wilde, Shaw edited it with the assistance of Lord Douglas.

Collecting Oscar Wilde

For collectors, Oscar Wilde is the ideal case study in how a single-author collection can–and should–come to include materials by a variety of other authors. A comprehensive Oscar Wilde collection would encompass the works of Wilde, not only his major literary pieces, but also the articles he penned as a journalist and critic. And a truly comprehensive collection would have a second layer: other authors’ reactions to and interactions with Wilde. For example, Shaw’s reviews mentioning Wilde are scarce because they were printed in periodicals on cheap paper, making them a challenging item for collectors to acquire. And Aubrey Beardsley’s caricatures of Wilde are sought after by both Beardsley and Wilde collectors alike, making them a desirable addition to an Oscar Wilde collection.

Oscar Wilde certainly left his mark on the world as an author and public figure. He will undoubtedly remain a popular figure among rare book collectors for generations to come.


Chapbooks: Short Books with Long History

Scholars debate over the etymology of the term “chapbook.” Some argue that “chap” is derived from “cheap,” surely an accurate description of chapbooks, since they were indeed cheap little publications. But the more widely accepted explanation is that “chap” comes from the Old English “céap,” meaning “barter” or “deal.” Peddlers came to be known as chaps, and they were the primary purveyors of chapbooks. Whatever the origin of their name, chapbooks became a vital tool for dissemination of information and promotion of literacy. As publishing and readers’ tastes evolved, chapbooks also provided an ideal means of addressing an increased demand for children’s literature.

Since the Middle Ages, traveling peddlers provided many necessary wares to rural communities–and that included the news. They would often regale their customers with the latest in politics, entertainment, and gossip. Then in 1693, England repealed the Act of 1662, which had limited the number of Master Printers allowed in the country. The number of printers exploded. Meanwhile, charity schools emerged, making education and literacy more accessible to the poor. The demand for cheaply printed reading materials drastically increased as a result, and all the new printers were happy to supply their needs.

By 1700, chapmen regularly carried small books–usually about the size of a waistcoat pocket–on virtually every topic imaginable. The books were generally coverless, and their illustrations were made of recycled (and irrelevant) woodcuts from other publications. In the absence of copyright laws, printers would steal illustrations or even large chunks of text from other chapbooks and reproduce them in their own editions. Early chapbooks weren’t even cut; the purchaser would cut apart the pages and either pin or stitch the book together to read.

Dr Watts-Divine SongsChapbooks grew into an incredibly powerful tool for disseminating new ideas. When Thomas Paine published The Rights of Man, he suggested that the second edition be made available in chapbook form. The book went on to sell over two million copies, an incredible feat in those days, when the average publishing run might be only a few hundred or thousand copies. Religious organizations used the form to publish religious tracts, nicknamed “godlinesses” or “Sunday schools.” There were even chapbooks for the chapmen themselves, containing information about different towns, dates for local fairs, and road maps.

The Industrial Revolution, however, brought a revolution in the printed word as well. People flocked to the cities, reducing chapbooks’ role in news delivery. Newspapers had also become cheaper to produce, so they were no longer relegated to the upper class. And chapbooks’ days seemed numbered when public solicitation was outlawed and peddlers could no longer distribute them. Meanwhile people’s tastes were changing. As the decades of the 1800’s passed, the novel was emerging as a new, preferred form, and in terms of “cheap” literature, chapbooks eventually gave way to “penny dreadfuls,” the dime novel, and other such low-brow forms.

But changing reading habits and higher literacy rates also meant an increased demand for children’s literature. From around 1780, most booksellers offered a variety of children’s chapbooks, which included ABC’s, jokes, riddles, stories, and religious materials like prayers and catechism. Thanks to improved printing techniques, this generation of chapbooks was printed with relevant illustrations and attached colored paper or card wrappers.


Though we think of chapbooks as a distinctly British form, they emerged in various forms around the world. Harry B. Weiss writes in A Book about Chapbooks, “The contents of chapbooks, the world over, fall readily into certain classes and many were the borrowings, with of course, adaptations and changes to suit particular countries.” And despite their variant forms and culturally specific content, chapbooks consistently served as a democratizing force in the dissemination of ideas.

Collectors may build entire collections around chapbooks, or they may find that certain chapbooks fit in well with their collections. For example, the 1849 edition of Juvenile Pastimes includes a rare early pictorial depiction of baseball, making it an ideal addition to a collection of baseball books. Collectors of erotica may enjoy Dumb Dora: Rod Gets Taken Again, an adult chapbook with suggestive, but not pornographic, illustrations. The variety of chapbooks means there’s a little book for everyone!

This month’s select acquisitions are a short list of delightful chapbooks. Please peruse them and contact us if you have any inquiries. As cataloguing chapbooks is quite the endeavor, we’ve also put together an article about the resources used to catalogue the items on the list, which includes our bibliographic sources at the end.


Chapbooks: A [Short] List for September


A meanly produced publishing phenomenon, Carter & Barker, in the 8th ABC, describe them thusly: “Small pamphlets of popular, sensational, juvenile, moral or educational character, originally distributed by chapmen or hawkers, not by booksellers.”

If one dips into Neuberg’s CHAPBOOK BIBLIOGRAPHY, we find this genre had “by 1700, [become] an important part of the [chapman’s] stock-in-trade … whose varied subject matter included devils, angels, scoundrels, heroes, love, hate, fairy tales, religion, fables, shipwreck, executions, prophecies and fortune telling. …  During the eighteenth century chapbooks formed the main reading matter for the poor.”  Though around for centuries, the chapbook, as a viable publishing genre, had mostly expired towards the end of the 19th C, except as Carter noted, “as a conscious archaism.”

Despite oft being an object of acquisition by collectors, one can still find these little volumes floating about, and offered at [comparatively] modest prices such that building a pleasing & extensive collection of these modest works is not beyond the means of the ‘average’ person [however such a term may be defined].

Here then is Tavistock Books’ list for September.  A small cache of 30 chapbooks, primarily for children, primarly American, primarily 19th Century.  Prices range from a modest $45 to a decidely robust $2000, for one that will be found in David Block’s ground breaking work, BASEBALL BEFORE WE KNEW IT.  Many titles offered are the only copy on the market; one or two not found on OCLC.

Should you have queries regarding any of this material, or other listings you may find on our site, please contact us.  We thank you for your attention, and we hope you find something of interest while browsing these offerings.


Cataloguing chapbooks is a task both challenging and engaging, as evidenced by the list of sources used to catalogue this month’s list of select acquisitions.

American Imprints AMERICAN BIBLIOGRAPHY. A Preliminary Checklist. 1801 – 1846.  NY [et al]: Scarecrow Pres, 1958-1997.


BAL.  Blanck, Jacob [et al].  BIBLIOGRAPHY Of AMERICAN LITERATURE.  New Haven: 1955 – 1991.

Block, David.  BASEBALL BEFORE WE KNEW IT.  A Search for the Roots of the Game.  Lincoln: (2005).

Cappon & Brown NEW MARKET, VIRGINIA, IMPRINTS 1806 – 1876.  A Check-list.  Charlottesville: 1942.

Church.  Cole, George Watson – Compiler.  A CATALOGUE Of BOOKS Relating to The Discovery and Early History of North and South America Forming a Part of the Library of E. D. Church.  NY: Peter Smith, 1951.

Cropper, Percy J.  The NOTTINGHAMSHIRE PRINTED CHAP-BOOKS, with Notices of Their Printers and Vendors. 1892. 

Davis, Roger.  KENDREW Of YORK and His Chapbooks for Children.  Elmete Press, 1988.


Gumuchian Les LIVRES De L’ENFANCE du XVe au XIXe Siècle.  London: Holland Press, 1985.

Hamilton, Sinclair.  EARLY AMERICAN BOOK ILLUSTRATORS And WOOD ENGRAVERS. 1670-1870.  Princeton: 1968.

Heartman, Charles F.  The NEW ENGLAND PRIMER Issued Prior to 1830.  1922.

[-].  AMERICAN PRIMERS. INDIAN PRIMERS. ROYAL PRIMERS.  And Thirty-Seven Other Types of non-New-England Primers Issued Prior to 1830.  Highland Park: 1935.



Opie, Iona & Peter.  The OXFORD DICTIONARY Of NURSERY RHYMES.  Oxford: (1951).

Osborne.  The OSBORNE COLLECTION Of EARLY CHILDREN’S BOOKS 1566-1910.  Toronto: TPL, 1975.

Rosenbach, A.S.W.  EARLY AMERICAN CHILDREN’S BOOKS.  NY: Dover, 1971.


Weiss, Harry B.  SAMUEL WOOD & SONS. Early New York Publishers of Children’s Books.  NY: 1942.

Welch, d’Alté A.  A BIBLIOGRAPHY Of AMERICAN CHILDREN’S BOOKS Printed Prior to 1821.  Worcester: AAS, 1972.