Three Musical Children: A Common Illustration on 18th-Century Printed Music

Martin Bierwisch

Thursday, February 11, 2021

We have a guest post by Martin Bierwisch (Universität Mainz):

Decorative frames, extravagant illustrations, or even small vignettes are typical elements that catch the eye on music printed editions. You can of course find a lot of nice examples through the digitized sources linked in the RISM online catalog, but it is also worth looking at Richard Schaal’s catalog Musiktitel aus fünf Jahrhunderten. Eine Dokumentation zur typographischen und künstlerischen Gestaltung und Entwicklung der Musikalien (Heinrichshofen, 1972; short title in RISM: SchaalM 1972), which however does not list the following example.

Perhaps this image looks familiar to you. The scene shows three children playing music outside. It is typical for decorations on music editions, with its depiction of nature, music scenes, and similar. It is interesting that the illustration can be found on multiple music editions, by various publishers as well as printers (see below, Rheineck 1784) covering the years from 1777 to 1794. The places of publication reach from Riga to Frankfurt am Main. It is possible that the use of this vignette goes beyond this time and area. One could surely determine similar usage for other illustrations.

The origin seems to be the Leipzig printer and publisher Breitkopf. The characteristic typography of the music gives him away as the printer, even if he is not named on the title page or at the end.

If you happen to find other editions that use this illustration, I would be happy to hear of them.

Printed editions found so far, in chronological order (with many thanks to Kristina Krämer for her assistance):

The image is taken from the EV-TALg RLD-777/Wolf/2 (Eesti Rahvusraamatukogu, Tallinn) copy of Ernst Wilhelm Wolf’s Concerto.

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