Nineteenth-century bound sheet music offers a window into domestic music making. The accouterments of musical life—instruments and sheet music—were recognizable symbols of elite taste and education. Much nineteenth-century sheet music was bound together into volumes by owners, sometimes with ornate, personalized covers and marbled endpapers. Collecting loose sheaves of music into a bound volume gave the music greater permanency and value; bound volumes became objects for display as well as use in the parlor. Symbols of status and taste, a piano and sheet music were ubiquitous fixtures of most middle- and upper-class American parlors.
In Swem Library’s Special Collections Bound Manuscript Collection, there is a handwritten transcription of some documents from the 1677-1686 Entry Warrant Book of Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland. The transcriptions were probably made by Sir William Betham (1779–1853), who was an English herald and antiquarian and held the office of Ulster King of Arms from 1820 until his death in 1853. A typed label on the inside cover states “from the collection of Sir W. Betham, Ulster King at Arms, half russia.” He is known for creating pedigree charts from all the “prerogative wills” of Ireland from 1536-1800.
Alexander Galt was an American sculptor born in Norfolk, Va. in 1827. He spent time studying in Italy from 1849-1853. He received important commissions in the United States and returned to Italy in 1856, coming back to Virginia in 1860. The outbreak of the Civil War saw him working for the Confederate army and doing a few private commissions. He drew a small pencil sketch of Thomas Jonathan (“Stonewall”) Jackson in December of 1862 which is his last known work. Galt contracted smallpox and died in January 1863.
At Homecoming this year, Special Collections opened a new exhibit showcasing selected items from our holdings arranged from A to Z. In Alphabetical Order: A Selection of Materials from Swem Library’s Special Collections was developed through a team effort with several staff and student workers involved.