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News bulletin 1: June 28 2004 (updated 3 February and 15 March 2005)

John Milsom

In its current state, the Online Catalogue covers the vast majority of printed source materials at Christ Church, and also a wide selection of manuscripts. The summary below describes the categories of manuscript material for which entries are currently available, and gives advance notice of further categories that will be placed online in the near future.

1. Manuscripts and printed material from the Goodson bequest (N.B. this paragraph updated 17 December 2004)

The Online Catalogue now includes a full list of items donated to Christ Church by Richard Goodson Jr in the 1740s. To view this list, with hypertext links to catalogue entries for the items themselves, follow this link.

2. Manuscripts and printed material from the Aldrich bequest

At present, the only part of the Aldrich bequest of 1710 that is comprehensively covered by the Online Catalogue is the printed material; entries have not yet been made for some of the Aldrich music manuscripts. However, it is possible to gain an overview of the Aldrich bequest by consulting two early shelflists of the collection, compiled in the first half of the 18th century. To view a transcription of these shelflists, with hypertext links (where available) to catalogue entries for the items themselves, follow this link. Some of the shelflist descriptions are too vague to allow an exact match with the surviving manuscripts themselves. For that reason, a supplementary list of Aldrich manuscripts is currently being compiled, and will be posted at a later date. Also in progress is a list of music manuscripts copied by Henry Aldrich himself.

3. The guardbooks and portfolios

As acquired by Christ Church in the first half of the18th century, the Aldrich and the Goodson bequests contained significant quantities of unbound fascicles, sheet music and loose papers. Over the centuries, various attempts were made to protect these items in guardbooks and portfolios, an enterprise that has sometimes created problems for the modern researcher. For example, materials that correctly belong together are now sometimes separated within a guardbook, or are divided between two or more guardbooks with different shelfmarks. An individual guardbook, too, may accommodate items of similar physical dimensions irrespective of their provenance, and will thus intermingle manuscripts that derive variously from the Aldrich and Goodson bequests. The Online Catalogue will attempt to guide the reader through these sometimes perplexing volumes.

The earliest guardbooks were in existence by 1787. They have a uniform appearance: upper and lower covers of white parchment over boards, undecorated except for two parallel fillets at the edges; spines in contrasting brown leather, often incorporating a red leather inset that has been tooled in gold with a short descriptive title. The following guardbooks are bound in this fashion: Mus. 3, Mus. 37, Mus. 49, Mus. 618, Mus. 619, Mus. 620 and Mus. 621. In addition, some single-tract volumes are bound in this way, and were presumably rebound at the same time: Mus. 4. Mus. 33, Mus. 45, Mus. 993, Mus. 994 and Mus. 995. No trace remains of any earlier bindings these volumes may once have possessed.

During the nineteenth century, a significant quantity of manuscript material remained unbound. Some items were kept loose in portfolios, the contents of which were summarized in an 1846 catalogue compiled by the Rev. Henry E. Havergal (now Christ Church, Library Records 30). Almost certainly the portfolios contained a random mix of items from the Aldrich and Goodson bequests. Nevertheless, some related items may have remained in close physical proximity to one another, and for that reason it has been reckoned worthwhile to transcribe and research Havergal's summaries. To see a list of the original contents of each portfolio (with hypertext links to full catalogue entries for the items themselves), follow this link. Beyond the portfolios, a large quantity of unbound 'miscellaneous instrumental music MS' was kept in what Havergal describes as 'bundles' or 'rolls', the contents of which in his view did 'not promise to repay the trouble of being separately catalogued'. These principally contained the large repertory that can be tentatively linked with the Oxford University waits or 'Musick' in the early 18th century; for further information about this, see section 4 below.

In the early 20th century, the unbound manuscript material was at last given protection, and the sheets and fascicles were fixed in the form they still take today. Some items were stitched or pasted into guardbooks; others were mounted impermanently on cords within portfolio folders. The following volumes fall into one of those two categories: Mus. 554, Mus. 865, Mus. 1034, Mus. 1141a, Mus. 1141b, Mus. 1142a, Mus. 1142b, Mus. 1147, Mus. 1154, Mus. 1188-9, Mus. 1205 and Mus. 1215. In one case, Mus. 1219, the contents inexplicably remain loose within a portfolio. Again, the Online Catalogue sets out to guide the reader through these miscellaneous volumes.

4. The repertory tentatively linked with the Oxford University waits or 'Musick'

Some of the least studied music manuscripts at Christ Church derive from an enigmatic group of composers and musicians whose identity and activities remain unknown. The modest nature of their music, however, combined with the specification of 'trumpets' for several pieces, hints at this being the repertory of a professional consort, the most likely of which is the Oxford city/university waits or 'Musick' in the early 18th century. The bulk of their repertory, which exists in both composing scores and performers' copies, remained unbound until the early years of the 20th century, when the sheets were assembled into guardbooks. These musicians also created a set of bound partbooks, Mus. 34-6. For an interim report on all these materials, with hypertext links to descriptions of the manuscripts themselves, see the entry for Mus. 34-6.