The Unique Patroness: Louise Hanson-Dyer’s Letters to the Library of Congress, 1936–1952
Abstract

ABSTRACT:

The Australian-born Louise Hanson-Dyer (1884–1962) was known in her day to be an equal to her contemporaneous music patronesses, compared most regularly to her more well-known American equal, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge (1864–1953). The publishing house she founded, l’Oiseau-Lyre, specialized in producing publications of early music, and is still considered to be the cornerstone for editions of medieval and renaissance music today. Hanson-Dyer’s audio recordings featuring the same music provided the first widely-available sound reconstructions of music from the distant past. Although she supported many composers and performers through financial donations, she is singled out as a unique patroness in her obituary by Fontes Artis Musicae owing to the nature of her contribution to the world of music publishing.

Among the Music Division Old Correspondence at the Library of Congress are preserved forty-one letters between Hanson-Dyer and staff of the Music Division. The discourse within the letters reveals a professional and personal relationship developed between the owner of l’Oiseau-Lyre and members of the Library of Congress—a relationship that was an essential part of her business to provide copyright protection for her unusual publications. This article retells the difficulties and triumphs of an ambitious enterprise through letters that crossed the Atlantic prior to and immediately following the Second World War. They reveal how nothing was too difficult for Hanson-Dyer, who ignored geographic barriers, gender stereotypes, cultural misunderstandings, and societal restrictions to provide informed, scholarly editions and recordings to an international community of music scholars and enthusiasts.