"The Study of Eighteenth-Century Music Paper: Problems and Prospects"

Dexter Edge (London)


Alan Tyson's catalogue of watermarks in Mozart's musical autographs is a landmark in music-paper studies. During more than a quarter of a century of research on the musical autographs of Beethoven and Mozart, Tyson developed a rigorous and consistent technique for describing and recording musical 'paper-types' (i.e., conjunctions of mold pairs with 'rastral' measurements, the ruling of musical staff lines). Tyson's conclusions, most especially his redatings of many Mozart works and his conclusions about Mozart's working methods, have been generally accepted by music scholars. The Mozart watermark catalogue is, despite minor flaws of design and presentation, by far the most important reference work yet published on music papers of the second half of the eighteenth century. It is the first such catalogue to give full-sized representations (exactly 100%) of both molds of a sizeable body (over 100) of relatively securely dated music papers.

Yet Tyson's catalogue should be seen not as a culmination, but as a point of departure. Although the potential importance of watermark studies for the study of eighteenth-century music has been recognized since the 1950s, most of the work done by scholars before Tyson lacked sufficient rigor, and much is virtually useless. Even today, very few scholars have mastered the relatively simple techniques advocated by Tyson, and one still reads distressingly often, even in otherwise respectable scholarly works, such vacuous statements as 'watermark with three moons.'

My talk will outline the current state of research into eighteenth-century music paper, focusing particularly on the papers in use by composers and music copyists in the Habsburg lands from 1740 until roughly the end of the Napoleonic wars. I shall begin with an evaluation and critique of Tyson's Mozart catalogue, drawing comparisons with the recently published A Catalogue of Handel's Musical Autographs by Donald Burrows and Martha J. Ronish. Based on my own work on eighteenth-century Austrian music, especially manuscript copies of Mozart's music, I shall suggest refinements to Tyson's technique, particularly in the areas of rastral measurements and mold deformation, and I shall discuss the potential value of archival study of the manufacture and circulation of music paper. My examples will be drawn from a wide variety of eighteenth-century manuscript musical sources, including the recently rediscovered original orchestral parts from the 1788 Vienna version of Mozart's Don Giovanni . These parts remained in use until around 1900, and consequently represent a special challenge to the paper analyst, as they contain laid-in pages (mainly from later productions) on at least 25 different paper types (in extreme cases, successive leaves of the original part are separated by 50 or more inserted pages).

I shall conclude with suggestions for teaching the techniques of paper analysis (for the past two years I have successfully taught these techniques to my graduate music students at the University of Wales, Cardiff), and I shall propose a project for a visual database of eighteenth-century music papers and music copyists, paying particular attention to the relative merits of making such a database available on CD-ROM or the World Wide Web.


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