Miss Beckford’s collection of vocal duets

One of the strengths of the Aylward collection is that several original covers of collection items have been preserved, containing ownership annotations and bookplates that reveal important information about their provenance. In certain cases, the information goes all the way back to their first owner.

One such example that turned up quite early in the cataloguing of the collection is a volume with vocal duets and other pieces by the brothers Bonifacio and Luigi Asioli, published by Robert Birchall (AYL 7 (1-8)). The volume bears the cover label: ‘Asioli’s Duets &c / Miss Beckford’, and several title pages the name ‘Harriet Beckford’ in manuscript. The volume also bears the bookplate of Henry Seymer of Hanford, Dorset.

AYL 7 cover label

It appears that its first owner, Harriet Beckford (1779-1853), was the daughter of Sir Peter Beckford (1740–1811), notable patron of Muzio Clementi (1752-1832). According to Grove, Peter Beckford brought Clementi to England around 1766 to his own private estate and supported his musical training there for the next seven years. Although this took place before she was born, it illustrates the important musical environment she would have been brought up in, and the high standard of musical training she would have received at home.

AYL 7 (1): Title page with Harriet Beckford’s name marked at the top

Her uncle too, William Beckford (1760-1844), was a notable music patron and author amongst other writings of Italy; with sketches of Spain and Portugal where he describes a private musical evening in Madrid in 1787 in the presence of the composer Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805).

In 1807, Harriet Beckford married Henry Seymer (later Ker-Seymer) and the Aylward collection contains several additional volumes with his bookplate. Her portrait (Mrs Henry Ker-Seymer) was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1840).

The notable family history of the owner of this volume in the Aylward collection greatly increases its value, and offers significant potential for research in the family’s musical activities and relations to notable composers and musicians of their time.

I am hoping by the end of the project to have formed a small collection within the Aylward collection of the Seymer family’s music volumes, and it would also be interesting to find out more about Harriet Beckford’s own musical training and skills as a performer.

                         AYL 7 (1-8)

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