Friday, January 9th, 2015...6:09 pm

Bright, shiny things

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As I was cataloging a box of social dance scores in the Ward Collection last night, I ran across an odd little score which looked to me like some kind of early photocopy from the 1960s, back when some copies had a strange glossy coating which didn’t really look like the emulsion of a true Photostat. (I apologize in advance, as many of these scans are very difficult to see, due to the faded quality of the print, and the glossy surface of the pages.)

*2008TW-2095 (65) cover

*2008TW-2095 (65) cover



But turning to the title page, surprise surprise, there was an inscription dated 1842!

*2008TW-2095 (65) Title Page

*2008TW-2095 (65) Title Page

So maybe this wasn’t some kind of modern reproduction. Looking more carefully at the score, I realized that it was a commemorative imprint, released in honor of the birth of the Prince of Wales in 1841, the likely year of publication.

*2008TW-2095 (65) Publisher's Catalog

*2008TW-2095 (65) Publisher’s Catalog

But what the heck is this? The publisher’s catalog on the last page says “elegantly printed on tinted paper with gilt edges,” and sure enough, there are vestiges of gilt on some of these pages. It’s not a reproduction, it’s the actual 1841 score! “Tinted paper??” The glossy surfaces, and printing, are only on one side of the paper, the other side of which shows the plain (and not too fancy) uncoated surface of the paper. Looking more closely at the gloss (if you click on the catalog above, you can see this coating more clearly, particularly in the diagonal fold on the upper right side of the page) it actually resembles the clay-coated paper of modern magazines.

*2008TW-2095 (65 ) First Page Of Music

*2008TW-2095 (65 ) First Page Of Music

The lithographed ink doesn’t appear to have faded per se, but rather to have rubbed off of the surface, more on some pages than others. This first page of music is relatively fresh, but compare it to the catalog above, and the front cover which is now virtually illegible. How is the ink adhering to this glossy surface at all?

*2008TW-2095 (65) Back Cover

*2008TW-2095 (65) Back Cover

The back cover has an unusual stripe of decoration on matching paper pasted on, under an additional pasted color-printed seal of a heroic figure on horseback slaying a dragon, with the motto “Be bold be fortunate.” If you look back up at the publisher’s catalog, you’ll see a note lower on the page: “…elegantly printed and inclosed [sic] in an envelope of enamel and gold.” The envelope was not included, but I think that given the misalignment of several of the pages in their binding, there is a good possibility that this little item has actually been re-bound at home. The gold strip on the spine which you can see in the first scan of the front cover, and these paste-ons on the back cover may incorporate some of the elements of the envelope.

In the end, I have no conclusion, as I’ve never seen glossy pages like this in such an early score. While it seems rather tattered now, when freshly produced no doubt it looked quite splendid. But why is this such a rare process? Was the Edinburgh publisher experimenting, maybe with cheaper methods of production? Did the results look tattered a lot sooner than expected? Your guess is as good as mine.

[Thanks to Andrea Cawelti, Ward Music Cataloger, for contributing this post.]

2 Comments

  • Dear Andrea

    I wonder if this paper is a product of one of the local Edinburgh and district papermakers – I have encountered a number of souvenir prints of Edinburgh and Scotland produced on paper very similar to that described – I wondered if the loading of the glossy side of the paper might contain a metal based pigment (Lead White?) as these prints are particularly susceptible to a dark tarnish. It is particularly evident in similar papers used as inside sheets of book binders and title-pages where the tarnish is greatest along the three ‘exposed’ edges. These papers seem to have been limited (probably by price) to ‘fancy work’ or decorative printing, presumably in imitation of parchment or velum – a surface suitable for burnishing might look good but it would not be ideal for lithographic printing – which is perhaps what we see here/

  • Keith, I think this is entirely possible, and thank you so much for bringing it to my attention, as I hadn’t considered lead or some other metal as a possible component. I was stuck on something like Kaolin, but this paper does show something which might resemble tarnish, along folds or dings in the paper. And the imprint would definitely have been considered fancy, being in honor of Edward VII’s birth. More food for thought! I believe some chemical analysis would be required for confirmation, so here’s hoping that we can make someone curious enough to request it.