Academic journal article Notes

An Archive and a Collection of Rare Music Scores: The William Crawford III Collections

Academic journal article Notes

An Archive and a Collection of Rare Music Scores: The William Crawford III Collections

Article excerpt


William (Bill) Crawford III (1932-2013), a collector of first-edition printed music, left his prized collection and its accompanying papers to the University of Washington's Music Library. The collection focuses on vocal music, especially opera piano-vocal scores. The collection spans six centuries, beginning with Palestrina's second book of madrigals (1586), and ends with Peter Schickele's Music for Judy (2013). The bulk of the publications, however, date from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The accompanying materials include purchase records and research on the items in the collection; collected letters including some from Rossini, Puccini, and Britten; photographs of performers; and photographs taken during the Spoleto Festival (Italy) when Crawford was manager. The paper highlights some of the treasures of the collection, the acquisition history and Crawford's collection plan, and the principles on which the archival collection is arranged.


On 7 February 2014, sixty-four boxes and one packing tube left apartment 17B of 161 West 16th Street in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City for their journey west. Fifteen days later, the William Crawford III Collection of Printed Music-over 700 first-edition rare vocal scores-arrived at the loading dock of the University of Washington Libraries together with its complement, the William Crawford III Papers: an archive of research notes, correspondence, photographs, and other documents. The materials were a bequest from the Crawford estate to the University of Washington's Music Library.

The journey of the collections started much earlier. Fourteen years before, Crawford visited the university's Music Library and offered the possibility of donating his collection, but was also considering other institutions for the gift. In 2001, he made his decision to give us the collection, and invited me to view the materials in New York City. But there were terms that we needed to agree upon, such as climate controlled storage, and publication of his catalog, before finalizing the bequest. Six years later, he solidified the gift agreement in his will. One of the reasons for his decisions, in addition to meeting the conditions, is that his collection complemented our small but important rare opera and vocal-score collection. He cited another reason, too: not only were there no such opera collections north of Berkeley in this country (his gift would fill the void), the Pacific Northwest was one of his favorite areas in the country.

This essay begins with an introduction to William Crawford, the collector and donor of the scores and associated papers. An overview of the collection follows, including a discussion of Crawford's principles for his collecting activities. The paper will highlight some of the treasures, including autographs and first editions of opera scores, and the extensive documents of Crawford's research. The archival collection (discussed in the final section of this paper) that accompanied the scores had many surprises-including autographed letters from composers such as Rossini, Puccini, and Britten-that Crawford never mentioned. In addition, there are materials from his days as the manager of the Spoleto Festival.


William (Bill) Crawford III, born in New York City on 18 August 1932, died in the same city on 13 August 2013, and left his prized collection to a university in the Pacific Northwest, a region he loved, especially for its scenic beauty. (1) Crawford's mother, Anne King Weld (1910-1982), came from the famed Weld family of Massachusetts, (2) and his father, William Crawford Jr. (1908-1972), a manager of Boston's department store Bonwit Teller, was originally from New York. Bill Crawford III was educated at the Brunswick School, a private school in Connecticut, where he was immersed in drama and stage performances as documented in photographs found in the Crawford archive. …

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