The AVSA conference, “Victorian Materialities”, took place at Deakin University, Melbourne, from 14 to 16 June. The conference was full of stimulating and informative papers, many of which had relevance to my research. The paper I gave considered the nature of the owner bound volume, including whether or not it was a type of collection so beloved by the Victorians. The keynote address “Engaging with Materiality of the Press: Scraps and Scrapbooks in Victorian Culture” by Professor Alexis Easley of the University of St Thomas, Minnesota looked at one type of these collections, scrapbooks, specifically scrapbooks created using periodicals and newspapers. She considered two collections and discussed in detail a scrapbook from the 1870s which used scraps from advertisements as a means of telling a story. There were many examples of different pieces of furniture in the household interiors forming the backdrop to the story, but in the pages we were shown there were no pianos or other musical instruments which I found surprising, given the importance of the piano at the time.
E W Cole, the subject of Tanja Luckins paper “E W Cole: Cosmopolitan things and thoughts”, was (among many other things) a music publisher and several of the owner bound volumes I have looked at included his publications. Cole’s three storied Rainbow Arcade in Melbourne sounds to have been a glorious institution and I look forward to reading Lisa Lang’s book “E W Cole: Chasing the Rainbow” which hopefully will cover his music publishing activities. I wonder if Invercargill music seller, James Fraser, who named his business the Rainbow Book Arcade in 1884, was hoping to emulate Cole’s success. Fraser advertised he went to Melbourne to personally select pianos from Nicholson and Co so would have been familiar with the Melbourne emporium. As part of his marketing strategy Cole issued a number of metal tokens for customers. Although the practice of shops issuing tokens was not unusual, the only New Zealand music seller I have come across who did this was Christchurch business Milner & Thomson.
The panel ‘Making and Selling the Colonial Book’ although dealing solely with Australia, had a lot of useful material. “’Marvellous Melbourne’ and its Publishers” by Lucy Sussex gave an overview of book publishing in the city and Jocelyn Hargrave’s “Negotiating the (im)material: Editorial Practices in Nineteenth-Century Australia” gave background and statistical information on printers and publishers – all of which helps form an idea of the printing and publishing trades of the time.
In “’Chaste and Rich’: Gender and the Victorian Material Book” Maura Ives explored the femininity or masculinity of different book bindings, with the book as the body and the binding as the clothing. I wondered how this impacted on the choice of bindings for owner bound volumes and whether or not gender is an influence in colour and type of binding selected.
Other papers got me thinking about the content and cover imagery of songs and pieces in the owner bound volumes – a presentation on the prevalence of Queen Victoria’s image on domestic goods (Kim Clayton-Greene); the portrayal of the Chinese in Victorian children’s games, toy collections and picture books (Shih-Wen Sue Chen) and the cultural logic and commodity of Victorian India (Divya Athmanathan).
Read the Twitter feed for the conference here.
My review of Margaret Bean’s fascinating and detailed account of a colonial musician, composer and teacher working in Ashburton A Passionate Affair: Lewellyn Owen & Music (Wellington: Steele Roberts, 2016) was published in Crescendo.
Next month I am presenting a paper at the Australasian Victorian Studies Association conference “Victorian Materialities” to be held at Deakin University, Melbourne 14 – 16 June. See the draft programme here.
Too often musical instruments and printed music in heritage houses are treated as pieces of furniture and artefacts rather than a means by which an aspect of the personality of past owners and the life of the house can be explored.
The Sound Heritage Network, of which the Sydney Living Museums are part, seeks to recover and interpret music associated with heritage homes by performing the music held there on instruments which form part of the house’s chattels, or which are contemporaneous with the house.
Yesterday I attended the Sound Heritage Sydney symposium, a wonderful chance to hear about ways in which music can, and is, being used to make historic properties in the UK and Sydney more relevant by performances of the music that was played and sung in them during the time they were a family’s home. Not all these houses were grand, far from it, and some of the music making discussed was more a sing along around the piano than a concert in a sumptuous salon.
The symposium was held at beautiful Elizabeth Bay House and during the lunch break I wandered through some of the many rooms noticing little ways in which the past musical life of the house was quietly being recognised.
The large upright piano had music open on it, ready to play.
In a bookcase in the same room were three owner bound volumes, ready for use.
In another room a guitar and music lay comfortably, as if the guitarist had just popped out for a minute.
A concert in the evening titled Here and There: Music at home in Sydney and London, 1830 – 1845 gave a taste of what would have been heard at Elizabeth Bay House when the Macleay family lived there. As well as piano solos, songs by popular composers of the time – Henri Herz, Michael Balfe and Jonathan Blewitt were sung – all from music found in properties cared for by Sydney Living Museums (and interestingly for me all composers whose works I have found in the owner bound volumes I have looked at). There were also two original Australian songs and to conclude the Sydney half of the programme the popular Scottish song Robin Adair. The London set was of music that we would consider more classical or serious – by Schubert, Schumann Beethoven and others, providing a contrast to what was a popular programme in the first half.
The concert was a lovely way to finish a fascinating day and a perfect example of what can be done to enhance a visitor’s understanding of what it was like to live, or be a guest, in a property such as Elizabeth Bay House at the time the Macleay family lived there. It also gave me a chance to hear some of the types of music I have found during my research.
The convenor of the Sound Heritage Symposium was Dr Matthew Stephens, Research Librarian, Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums and I would like to leave the last words to him.
‘Just like the construction techniques of Hyde Park Barracks, the particularities of hanging 19th century curtains in the drawing room at Vaucluse House, or the world of cookery in a given place and time, past musical activity leaves its fingerprints if you know where to look’.
I’m looking forward to attending the “Sound Heritage Sydney: Making Music in Historic Places” Symposium being held at Sydney’s Elizabeth Bay House next month. Sydney’s Living Museums is working with Sound Heritage at the University of Southampton to bring music to the historic houses of Sydney.
Last year Sydney’s Living Museums produced The Dowling Music Project, at Elizabeth Bay House and recently a short film was made on the work that has been done at Vaucluse House.
I am giving a presentation on my research into owner bound volumes at the IAML (NZ) Conference in Dunedin on Friday, 4 November.
Victoria University of Wellington History Seminar
Music at the Mountaineer
One of the most fascinating aspects of my research is getting to know the people who played and enjoyed music in New Zealand’s past. I love playing detective and finding out their relationship to the music in the volume I’m looking at, where they bought it, where they played it and how music featured in their lives.
Recently I visited Puke Ariki in New Plymouth to view the owner bound volumes they hold and came across one with “Songs” and “B & P Bond” embossed in gold on the cover.
The index had been filled in (which is unusual) so apparently the music was used after binding.
As with all owner bound volumes the individual sheets had been trimmed to fit the volume’s cover and so valuable clues as to the identity and location of the owner(s) had been chopped off. However I could read a number of names written on the pieces “Belle Bond” “A Marie Bond”, “Isabel Bond” and “Misses I and A Bond” – little of which seemed to fit with the initials on the cover. Many of the pieces were dated and although the end of the date was often cut off I could see that the music had all been purchased in the 1880s. Several sheets of music had “Queenstown” written on it and one “Wakatipu”. The last song in the volume contained the nugget of gold (you’ll see the analogy when you read on) I’d been hoping for. It was inscribed “Marie A Bond, Mountaineer H (the rest of the word had been cut off), Queenstown”.
Back home I began to delve and discovered the fascinating background of “B & P Bond”. Isabella (Belle) and Mary Anne (Polly) were twin daughters of Mrs Rebecca Bond, who at the time they were buying this music ran the Mountaineer Hotel in Queenstown.
Rebecca Bond had come from Australia to New Zealand with her husband in 1862, following the lure of gold. The Bonds established the Empire Hotel in Cardrona in 1867 where the twins were born in 1869. After George died in 1876 Rebecca was left to bring up seven young children and run the hotel which provided their livelihood. In 1879 after three years of trying to sell it she abandoned the Empire and moved to Arrowtown where she ran the Ballarat Hotel. In 1885 she moved to Queenstown to take up the proprietorship of the Mountaineer Hotel.
All but one of the 20 pieces of music in the volume had a seller’s stamp and 18 were for the two Dunedin firms of Charles Begg & Co and the Dresden Pianoforte Manufacturing and Agency Company. The other piece had a stamp from an Invercargill dealer. One of the Dresden pieces had been given “With the Dresden Piano Company’s Compliments”. It’s impossible to say if the music was purchased in Dunedin or whether there was an agent for either or both Begg’s and the Dresden in Queenstown at the time. If they did have Queenstown agents I haven’t discovered them as yet.
What type of music did Belle and Polly enjoy? Although all the pieces in the volume are songs they both played the piano as well as sang. Newspaper accounts tell us that “Miss Isabella Bond … one of Queenstown’s favourite singers” sang Dolly’s Revenge “in a very pleasing manner and with good taste, which elicited a rapturous applause.” The bound volume contains two vocal duets and the County Press reports Belle and Polly singing Little Sunshine in a concert at Arrowtown in 1883 where “but for a rather bad cold which told upon Miss Bella Bond, the number would have proved more successful”. Although there are no piano duets in the volume they did perform them – Le Entrée du Village at the Arrowtown Rifle Volunteers Band concert in 1885 and at another Arrowtown band concert in 1884 they played the West End Polka where “Their time was excellent, and the execution remarkably good, and the audience rewarded them by the warmest expressions of approval.”. While living in Queenstown it was reported “The Misses Bond opened the proceedings by playing the ‘Flambeaux March’ in capital style.”
As well as performing outside the home they undoubtedly played and sang within it. Perhaps they played the piano in the Mountaineer Hotel’s parlour. In 1884 the Lake County Press reported that Rebecca Bond of the Ballarat Hotel, Arrowtown, had commissioned a local cabinet-maker to make a cabinet “To fit the corner of a parlor, and to hold music on the shelves, which are placed at the bottom, and a large ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ doll in a glass case at the top.” No doubt this prized piece of furniture travelled with the family to Queenstown. Perhaps their owner bound volume resided on it there, or maybe it took pride of place on the piano. What fun it is to imagine.
 Lake Wakatip Mail, 16 September 1887, 2.
 Lake County Press, 27 July 1883, 7.
 Lake County Press, 10 September 1885, 2.
 Lake County Press, 17 March 1884, 2.
 Lake County Press, 21 October 1886, 3.
 Lake County Press, 2 April 1884, 2.
Conservatorium of Music, Melbourne Seminar
This month I gave a seminar at the Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne on my research into the music retailing firm of Charles Begg & Co. My seminar followed one by Rosemary Richards, who was giving her PhD completion seminar into the manuscript music collection of Georgiana McRae.