Friday, June 15, 2012

Music and Marginalia: Agatha Russell's Bequest

A few years ago Newnham's Raleigh Music Society transferred a collection of sheet music to the Library. I have been working on cataloguing this collection over the last year or so, and have written about it previously on the MusiCB3 blog.

Among the collection from the Raleigh Music Society are many items beqeathed to the College by Lady Agatha Russell (the daughter of Prime Minister John Russell and aunt of philosopher Bertrand Russell) upon her death in 1933. These include some lovely anthologies of British and Irish folk music as seen below, and a lot of piano music.
Anthologies of folk music from Lady Russell's bequest

Annotations in different hands and languages
 One of the latest items of Lady Russell's that I catalogued was a bound collection of 45 pieces for solo piano. These were pieces that had been published separately, and collected and selected by Lady Russell to be bound together into one volume, perhaps for ease of performance or storage. Some of her bound books are quite ornate, with gold initials stamped on the front cover, and marbled flyleaves. This particular volume is much plainer and looks to be music that was well used (many of the pages have come loose from the binding). What I found particularly endearing about this volume was that many of the pieces were annotated with fingering, dates and notes such as "by heart". There are annotations in at least two different sets of handwriting, and some of the notes are in French. While librarians tend to object to people writing in books, marginalia can be a wonderful way to get an insight into the history of a book and the life of the book owner(s), and it is interesting how the passage of time changes scribbles such as these into valuable source material for research!

Annie Johnson, Library Assistant.

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