Selections from the William L. Clements Library
A new exhibit from the William L. Clements Library showcases examples from the library’s collection of sheet music, which is currently being cataloged thanks to a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas foundation.
The publication and circulation of sheet music expanded quickly throughout the 1800s. Music publishers were quick to embrace new printing technologies as they developed, and sheet music became a relatively fast and inexpensive means of circulating news, information, and ideas, as well as feeding the public's growing hunger for access to popular music to perform at home. The examples on display are drawn from the first half of the century.
Popular song has always served as a vehicle for broadcasting social and political trends. Vocal groups such as the Hutchinsons became popular performers closely associated not only with their distinctive vocal style but with their progressive politics as well, and the issuance of sheet music with their name and image brought their music and beliefs into the homes of thousands of people.
The music publishing industry was quick to respond to current events: elections, battles, and the advent of new technologies such as the installation of the Atlantic telegraph cables were all documented, musically and visually, in sheet music.
Sheet music publishing also became a vehicle for visual arts; publishers became aware that they could earn more money from visually attractive items. On display are some artfully hand-colored examples, as well as some stunning examples of early color lithography.
Now on display in the center cases of the Main Room at the Clements Library. Regular exhibit hours: Monday through Friday, 1:00 pm to 4:45 pm.
Other current exhibits in the Main Room: Sugar in the Atlantic World: Trade and Taste.