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Mackworth collection (18th-19th C.)

Browse the online catalogue of manuscripts

Browse a list of printed scores

The collection contains publications from the 17th to the 19th centuries (including, among others, pleasure garden-songs, fashionable dance music and instrumental music by Corelli, Handel and Hasse), plus some 70 manuscript volumes, including full scores of operas and operatic arias.

The Mackworth collection was assembled by the Neath industrialist Sir Herbert Mackworth (1737-1791), with other volumes added later by family members. In 1916 Sir Herbert’s descendants put the Collection up for sale, and it was purchased for the Cardiff Public Library in 1919 by Mr Richard Bonner Morgan, a Cardiff optician. It was subsequently presented to the Cardiff Central Library, which created the first extant catalogue of the Collection. The Mackworth Collection was placed on permanent loan in the care of the Cardiff University of Wales Library in 1989. It contains publications spanning from Thomas Mace’s Music’s Monument of 1676 to a copy of Mendelssohn's Elijah dated from around 1878; the vast majority of the published works, however, are from the 18th century. 

There are some 70 manuscripts, including full scores of operas by Giovanni Bononcini, Porpora and Alessandro Scarlatti as well as numerous operatic arias by Hasse, Vinci, Handel and others. The printed music includes pleasure-garden songs, fashionable dance music and instrumental music by Corelli, Handel and Hasse. Manuscript copies believed to be unique include: Charles Burney, Six sonatas or duets for two German flutes (London, 1754); George Frideric Handel, The overture and favourite songs in the opera of Rodelinda (London c. 1725); and, Johann Adolph Hasse, Sonata per il cembalo (London, c. 1760). Of particular note is an important manuscript containing early 18th century Spanish cantatas and over 50 copies of Italian cantatas, including one unica by Alessandro Scarlatti. In addition, there are about a dozen or so treatises which address practical aspects of musicianship, such as Ladies’ pocket guide, or the compleat tutor for the guittar, containing easy rules for learners, and The Gentleman’s Diversion, or the Violin explain’d by John Lenton. The Lenton copy is a unique first edition, previously overlooked because of the loss of the first three pages. The discovery of the Cardiff copy of The Gentleman’s Diversion sets other violin methods of the period in a new light. It also confers upon John Lenton the honourable distinction of having written the earliest extant treatise on violin playing in any language. As well as preserving unique items, the Mackworth Collection affords an important opportunity to study the collecting habits of an 18th century family who were chiefly concerned with creating a practical music library.

Date range: 17th-19th centuries.

Significance: Significant in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Size: c. 500 printed works, plus c. 1,500 manuscript pieces.

Languages: English, Italian, Spanish, and French.

Keywords: Music, vocal music, opera