I have a conundrum. And I can’t leave it alone.
A very eminent Victorian music antiquarian called Frank Kidson wrote a book on British music publishers, and immeasurable paragraphs on the subject of old Scottish folk music. His knowledge was far-reaching and painstakingly detailed. If Kidson says John Walsh and Daniel Wright were pirates (in the publishing sense), then they almost certainly were.
In Dundee a few weeks ago, my AHRC research supervisor and I were looking at an early 18th century tune-book that intrigued us. It lacked the first two pages – and irritatingly, that meant there was no titlepage. It was said to be indisputably a Daniel Wright publication. Now, I’ve found a match for it – WITH the missing pages – and this one (in London) is indisputably a Walsh publication. However, I still need to compare them, as it’s possible there might be differences in typeface or tune title spellings. I also need to compare it with a marginally earlier publication which IS indisputably by Wright.
Things get better. It looks, judging by the numbering of the tunes, as though two different publications have been printed together. Have I been able to identify two earlier publications? No.
Most frustratingly of all, the book doesn’t even look very relevant to our research project. The trouble is, I like nothing better than a bit of book detective work, so I can’t just walk away from it. (It’s almost like telling a gambler to cut up his credit card and leave his cash at home.) I spent Saturday morning at the Uni library, and much of the rest of the weekend searching the deeper recesses of the internet for clues.
I’m afraid this is what happens when you cross a musicologist with a music librarian. But watch this space, because I’m sure I will find out more about it in time!