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Watermarks and the history of music

printed musicDr Rudolf Rasch, a leading authority on music printing and music publishing in the eighteenth century, will deliver a public lecture at the University on how understanding the watermark can expose an item’s hidden music history.

Unlike books, printed music in the eighteenth century was hardly ever dated, making the task of any music historian wishing to trace the importance and significance of a particular item of printed music a daunting one. While some publishers advertized in the daily press, others did not and, in any case, later editions and re-issues were rarely advertized.

One of the more revealing guides to the date is the nature not of the printed text but of the paper on which it is printed, especially the watermark that is embedded in the paper itself. It can reveal who printed the paper, where and when. Armed with this information musicologists have been able to transform their knowledge of the outputs of composers and its wider dissemination, within their own lives and posthumously.

Dr Rasch of the University of Utrecht was a member of the Advisory Committee associated with the JISC project to catalogue the music in the Cardiff Rare Books and Music collections. During his visits to Cardiff he took the opportunity to work in the collection.

Dr Rasch’s talk, ‘Evidence from blank paper: watermarks and the history of music’, takes place at 5.30pm on Thursday 24 October 2013 at SCOLAR in the Arts and Social Studies Library, Colum Road. The talk is part of the Cardiff Rare Books and Music Lecture Series 2013/14. All are welcome.