Monday, May 24th, 2010...3:03 pm

Filling in the cracks

Jump to Comments

[Thanks to Ward cataloger Andrea Cawelti for providing the basis for this post.]

Carl Maria von Weber’s opera Der Freischütz was an immediate hit when it was first performed in Berlin in 1821, creating strong demand for a printed score. Like nearly all musical scores of the time period, the score was printed from engraved plates. It was reprinted numerous times (there are 11 copies in various Harvard collections), but none of these different printings are indicated on the scores themselves. However, as the score went through more and more printings, the reuse of the plates began to cause damage. Cracks on the plate, because they absorbed ink just like the engraving lines, show up as marks on the paper, and the progressive worsening of the cracks makes it possible to determine the relative order of our various copies.

In this early impression, a crack is just beginning to develop:
Der Freischutz, p.92, impression 1. 1.	Harvard Theatre Collection M1503.W363 F7 1821 (C)

Here, it’s clear that the crack has widened significantly:
Der Freischutz, p. 92, impression 2. Harvard Theatre Collection M1503.W363 F7 1821 (D)

On this plate, the crack has been joined by another crack next to it:
Der Freischutz, p. 92, impression 3. Houghton Library *fMus.W3883 F.1821 (B)

Finally, the wear has become too severe, and an entirely new plate is engraved:
Der Freischutz, p. 92, impression 4. Harvard Theatre Collection M1503.W363 F7 1821 (E)

Comments are closed.