Music Publishing in the Canadas, 1800-1867

By Ford, Clifford | Canadian University Music Review, January 1, 1981 | Go to article overview

Music Publishing in the Canadas, 1800-1867


Ford, Clifford, Canadian University Music Review


MARIA CALDERISI. Music Publishing in the Canadas, 1800-1867. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1981, x, 128.

In studying the development of music of a country, especially a relatively new country such as Canada, one cannot disregard the ancillary subjects such as the music industry, music education, or music administration. Anyone familiar with Canadian music history will be only too aware that these elements play a considerable role in our understanding of Canada's musical growth. Essentially the study of Canadian music is a study of sociology. How does a musical community take root and flourish over a relatively short period of three hundred years? To answer this question one must call upon all the elements which make up the musical community, not only composition and performance.

It is to this end that Maria Calderisi's Music Publishing in the Canadas, 1800-1867, in both English and French (the French text on inverted pages), is a welcome study. Not a large book, the study is divided into seven chapters with six appendices, a bibliography, and an index. There are fifty-three pages of text and forty-two pages of illustrations. The appendices consist of an index to and chronological list of books known to contain musical notation, a chronological list of newspapers and periodicals known to contain printed music, a directory of Canadian sheet music publishers and printers, a synoptic chart of Canadian sheet music publishers, and a checklist of A. & S. Nordheimer plate numbers. It is in the appendices where the true value of this study can be found and where researchers and students will be able to glean facts and figures on the publishing industry before Confederation. As such, Calderisi's study will become a valuable reference book. But it is to the text of the book to which we turn to flesh out those bare facts.

At the opening of her Preface, the author draws attention to the scarcity of sources concerning Canadian publishing history. It is a sad fact that most archivists and librarians have, in the past, tended to regard musical Canadiana of insufficient significance to have paid much attention to collecting it. However, the collecting of sheet music carried on by Helmut Kallmann, Chief of the Music Division of the National Library since 1970, has provided sufficient material for a study of this particular category and it is not surprising to find Calderisi devoting over half of her book to it. Her other categories are books, newspapers, and periodicals containing music.

The second point the author makes in the Preface is that she has not included material from the Maritime region, the only other region in British North America active in music publishing before Confederation, the reason being that few publications are housed at the National Library. While I can accept, as the English title indicates, that this study is limited to the central provinces, I do find it sad that the significance of the contribution made by such publishers as E.G. Fuller or James Dawson of Nova Scotia or the appearance of Stephen Humbert's Union Harmony in New Brunswick in 1801 should have to wait in relative obscurity for a similar study to be done - a sequel perhaps?

One is tempted then to view this study as an elaborate summary, with extensive annotations, of the holdings of the National Library. This statement is further supported by the character of the text. Calderisi is content to report or describe rather than analyze her findings; although, admittedly, the material included in this study would hardly carry the weight of much analysis. The parameters of the study are simply not broad enough. We have already mentioned the geographical restriction, but the time restriction also prevents her from including the most prolific period in Canadian music publishing: from Confederation to World War I. It was during this period that sheet music publishing dramatically accelerated - although perhaps this mass-produced material is not as intrinsically interesting - and that the first complete musical scores of large works by Canadian composers made their appearance. …

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