Penn Library

Hidden in Plain Sight:
Musical Treasures in the Penn Library

Curated by Marjorie Hassen

Otto E. Albrecht Music Library
University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents
Manuscript Collections:
Manuscript Collections:
Sheet Music
Conducting Scores
Music Manuscripts:
15th-18th Centuries
Music Manuscripts:
19th & 20th Centuries
Landmarks of Music Theory
Musical Fund Society Records

Founded on 29 February 1820, the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia is the oldest music society in the United States in continuous existence. The Society was an outgrowth of informal but regular "practisings" of a group of professional and amateur musicians in the years immediately preceding its founding, and it provided a framework with which Philadelphia's musical elite could "reform the state of neglect into which the beautiful art of music had fallen" (as written in the Society's 1831 Annual Report).

The level of musical activity within the organization throughout the first half of the nineteenth century was extraordinary. Vocal and instrumental departments were created and headed by the "Directors of the Music"; regular "practises" were scheduled on Thursdays during all but the summer months; and concerts were presented on a regular basis by Society members, frequently with the assistance of guest soloists. These performances were often elaborate affairs requiring large forces of instrumentalists and singers, and the choice of repertory remained steadfastly faithful to the Society's goal to "promote a sound and critical musical taste in the community."

To support this musical activity, the Society spent a substantial sum for printed music, as well as for the hand-copying of music that was unavailable for purchase. Great quantities of music were imported from the Leipzig music publisher C. F. Peters. When only a score was available, orchestral parts were hand-copied. On other occasions a score would be made from the purchased printed parts. The Society also made copies of performance materials borrowed from such organizations as the Handel and Haydn Society of New York and the Moravian Brethren in Bethlehem. The result is a collection rich in first and early published editions of music, as well as in contemporaneous manuscript copies.

The Society's records were donated to the University of Pennsylvania Library in 1991. They include minute books, engagement books, concert programs, and papers, as well as an extensive collection of manuscript and published music dating primarily from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth.

William Augustine Newland, 1813-1901
Account Book
Manuscript, 1843-1868
In: Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia Records
Ms. Coll. 90

William Newland, an English-born Philadelphia musician, was at once an organist, conductor, composer, teacher, and publisher. This account book records his professional activities in Philadelphia over a twenty-five-year period. His entries detail payments for music lessons, teaching, piano tuning, the sale of music, conducting, and performances.

The left-hand page of this opening records Newland's participation in the premiere of William Henry Fry's opera Leonora, considered the first grand opera by an American composer. Newland conducted rehearsals for the production, which was first performed by the Seguin Opera Troupe on 4 June 1845, at the Chestnut Street Theatre.

Last update: Monday, 03-Feb-2003 11:09:50 EST
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