Of Misspelt and Corrected Title Pages

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Imagine you are an engraver and have spent hours if not days bent over the plate of a title page that you were asked to make by a music publisher – and then you notice an error. What now? Start over? Leave the error? Or is there some way of correcting it?

Sometimes it was possible to get rid of small mistakes by hammering them out. However, this didn’t work if the length of a line was too short or a letter was missing.

Such is the case with a Schott edition by Leonhard von Calls, Duos op. 4 Livre 2, which has publisher number 1452 ([1820]). There is an error on the title page of the Flauto Secondo part: “Oevre 4” instead of “Oeuvre 4”. The Flauto Primo part has an almost identical, but new and corrected, title page. The spacing of the first line as well as the position of the word “PAR” below the instrumentation are different. (The edition in this example was admittedly lithographed and not engraved.)

Leonhard von Call, Trois duos pour deux flutes, Schott 1452, ([1820]). RISM ID no. 991012312, A/I: CC 72a I,15. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (D-Mbs) Mus.Schott.Ha 1442-4.

With regard to the names of composers and dedicatees, caution is advised. If you think about the sheer endless number of ways to spell names like Johann Baptist Vanhal (RISM lists 51 variants) it can be impossible to tell if the engraver actually misspelt it or intended it the way it appears. Some variants might seem strange to the modern eye (such as “Mozard”) but that doesn’t mean they were uncommon back in their day. The same can be said for the varying use of umlauts and French or Italian name variants. This shows why it is so important that RISM entries include an exact title page transcription as well as standardised names.

As an example, the title pages of works by Joseph Küffner published by Schott in Mainz offer a wide range of variants such as Küffner, Kuffner, Kûffner and Kuͤffner.

Joseph Küffner, 10 pieces pour guitarre, flûte et alto, Schott 574, [1812]. D-Mbs Mus.Schott.Ha 725-1; Serenade pour clarinette ou violon, alto & guitarre, Schott 710, [1813]. D-Mbs Mus.Schott.Ha 833; Cinquieme Pot-Pourri pour guitarre et flûte, Schott 1699, [1822]. D-Mbs Mus.Schott.Ha 1633-2; and two editions of Polonaise favorite pour Piano-Forte, Schott 1875, [1823]. D-Mbs Mus.Schott.Ha 1796-1 and D-Mbs Mus.Schott.Ha 1796-2.

In contrast, the following title page is certainly the result of a mishap. The engraver obviously skipped over one “e” in “Beethoven” and then sought to correct it as quickly as possible.

Ludwig van Beethoven, Ouverture de Prometeo, Schott edition of the earlier Zulehner edition, number 241, [1818]. D-Mbs Mus.Schott.Ha 484-1.

And last but not least, a personal favourite which shall be left open for your speculation. Were the words on this title page arranged this way on purpose, or is it the result of something else—whatever that may be?

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Cosi fan tutte, Schott 1483, [1821]. RISM ID no. 990043315; A/I M/MM 4749. D-Mbs Mus.Schott.Ha 1458.

All images used under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

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