On the Importance of the Aylward and Mackworth Printed Music Collections

By Professor Rudolf Rasch

Why are the Aylward and Mackworth printed music collections important for musicians and musicologists? Although I have not gone through the entire collections, rather the opposite, I have only seen a very small portion of them, still some remarks can be made.

First of all, we should be happy with every copy of an early edition of music that has been preserved. We may think that once we know a piece of music from one source, all the other sources are no longer relevant. But it is just the opposite: copies of early music may be similar, but they may be different as well. Composers and publishers may have inserted changes and additions, and users may have left indications on them such as fingerings and articulations. The more copies we have of the same composition, the better we can tell the story and the history that are present in every piece of music. The number of preserved copies is a rough estimate of its popularity, and the variation between the copies shows us to what extent music was merely left as it was or instead arranged, corrected, changed, improved, etc.

Another feature of many items in the Aylward and Mackworth collections is that they are still as they were when they were last used. This means that they show their way of being used, they have signatures of former owners, and copies bound together also tell us about the taste of certain owners, and so on. Other music collections in libraries often have rebound all the early music and have thereby destroyed a lot of information about the history of the book.

Also, the Aylward and Mackworth collections are typical collections where “surprises” are possible. The collections were brought together over a considerable stretch of time, probably by more than one person, and they reflect a variety of tastes and preferences. By this they may have somewhat unpredictable contents, and among these unpredicted items may be rare or even unique items.

I have studied in detail only the Geminiani editions in the two collections, which, although not very large in number, have brought me to new ideas about the history of these editions. It was for instance the first time I saw Whatman watermarks in Geminiani’s music. (So far in music scholarship, these watermarks had only been found in music by Handel.) Also, a copy of the composer’s Concerti grossi Op.2 (AYL 480-486 (3)) looked in one way like a Walsh edition, and in other ways like Geminiani’s private edition. A comparison with other similar copies of this edition brought me to the conclusion that at a certain point of time Geminiani did not have sheets of all the pages of the edition left. Then John Walsh printed anew the missing pages so that at the end there is some kind of a composite edition. Such conclusions are only possible by studying a number of copies of an edition.

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