The Market for Music in the Late Eighteenth Century and the Entry Books of the Stationers' Company
- The Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 10, Number 2, June 2009
- pp. 157-187
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In the last half of the eighteenth century, the demand for printed music rose dramatically, in part fueled by the lively musical environment in England and by the growth of the middle class, who purchased printed music suitable for amateur musicians, which they could play at home and in small groups. No one, however, has examined the market for music: what types of compositions were printed, what composers were most marketable, and what music sellers were most influential in determining what did and did not get printed and sold. One way of gauging a work's popularity is registration with the Company of Stationers because members of the print trade only registered a work if they believed in its commercial viability and were concerned that their competitors might attempt to pirate it. Therefore, an examination of music entries is one way we can discover which compositions music sellers and composers considered marketable enough to justify the expense of registration. Such an analysis reveals that the public preferred the works of British theatrical composers over their prestigious European counterparts, upon whom scholars studying this period up until now have almost exclusively focused their attention. In addition, they were interested in buying music adapted for instruments like the pianoforte and harpsichord, which they could play in their homes. As the Stationers' Company records suggest, then, scholars should examine more fully the entire range of archival evidence relating to the music trade in the late eighteenth century to gain a more complete picture of musical England during the late eighteenth century.