Friday, February 17, 2012

A Song that Appeals to the Heart

An illustration of a young man and woman seated and leaning into each other on the desk of a ship. They are identified by the caption as Walter and Florence, subjects of a Charles Dickens story.
"Walter and Florence"
Among the many cultural innovations of the Victorian age, printed sheet music was one of the most widespread. The upright piano made it possible for most middle-class families to have musical entertainment in their own parlors. Printed music had existed since the dawn of the press in the fifteenth century, but lithography and mechanized production made sheet music available to the masses.

An illustration of a seated figure. Above him, two women hold a laurel. Below him, a man and woman hold the edges of a banner including the title "The Box Quadrilles."
"The Boz Quadrilles"
At the same time, while copyright protected an author's writing, there was no concept of licensing like we have today. Beloved characters from the novels of Charles Dickens lived on in songs inspired by his works, yet not necessarily authored - or authorized - by his pen. Much like today when we buy the soundtrack to a favorite movie, Victorian readers would sing songs that continued their literary experiences and contributed to their collective enjoyment of popular literature.

A title page with blue text titled "Poor Little Nell, A Song That Appeals to the Heart." A small illustration shows two men looking over the reclining figure of a young girl.
"Poor Little Nell"
See these items and other materials from the Dartmouth College Library's collections in the exhibit "Dickens at 200: Sketches, Curiosities, Expectations," which celebrates the 200th anniversary of Dickens's birth. The exhibit was curated by Laura Braunstein and will be on view in Berry Main Street until April 27, 2012.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fashionable Valentines

A title page with a fold-out illustration of a courting couple.How do I address the one I love on this Valentine's Day? The question has haunted lovers for ages, but luckily, we are here to help with Richardson's New London Fashionable Gentleman's Valentine Writer, or, the Lover's Own Book for this Year Containing a Very Choice Selection of Original and Popular Valentines with Appropriate Answers (Derby: Thomas Richardson, 183-) and the companion piece: Richardson's New Fashionable Lady's Valentine Writer, or, Cupid's Festival of Love Containing All the Most Popular New and Elegant Valentines for the Present Year (Derby: Thomas Richardson, 183-).

Whether you are a humble cottager or a man of wealth, the proper verse (and response) is "adapted to all situations in life." Love, apparently, knows class.

A page of printed verse.

Come in and find your valentine's voice: for "the gentlemen," Rare PN6110.V35 R5, or, serving "the ladies," PN6110.V35 R53 1830z.