Manuscript books

Manuscript books. Until the mid-19th century, when dealers established large stocks of imported music and when music printing had gained a foothold in Canada, musicians anxious to build repertoires depended largely on copying by hand from the few available scores and from each other's manuscripts.

Manuscript books

Manuscript books. Until the mid-19th century, when dealers established large stocks of imported music and when music printing had gained a foothold in Canada, musicians anxious to build repertoires depended largely on copying by hand from the few available scores and from each other's manuscripts. The few extant manuscript books thus developed are invaluable documents of contemporary taste, for nobody had to copy what he did not like or did not expect to perform. Many fiddlers and all folksingers picked up their material purely by ear from others, but some of the more educated did notate the popular repertoire. Thus Allen Ash (1800-89), a farmer in the district of Newcastle, Ont, filled 28 pages of a manuscript book (Library and Archives Canada) with waltzes, reels, galops, hornpipes, and other dances, including a Cobourg Waltz probably of his own composition. Other examples are the music notebook of Elisha Styles Lyman inscribed 'Montreal, August 28, 1821' (Carillon Museum, Carillon, Que) and the one of Havilah Jane Thorne of Bridgetown, NS, dated 1839 (Public Archives of Nova Scotia).

Not discussed in the present survey are imported manuscripts, such as the Livre d'orgue de Montréal, which was brought to Canada in 1724, or the 'Livre de contredances [sic] avec les figures,' preserved at the Archives du Séminaire de Trois-Rivières, probably brought from France in 1768 by Pierre René Boucher de La Bruère.

In the Séminaire de Québec library (a gift from his grandson the priest), is preserved a more than 300-page manuscript in which the merchant Charles Berthelot, who arrived in Québec in 1726, copied the methods for various wind instruments (the handwriting is the same as that on Berthelot's seminary accounts). There were hundreds of minuets, musettes and tambourines probably also in his hand, works that appeared again in French publications of the period. The manuscript is connected to Hotteterre's Principes de la Flûte traversière.

A mixture of dances, songs (including 'La Marseillaise'), and more sophisticated music is found in the manuscript music book of Miss Rachel Frobisher of Montreal, begun in April 1793 when she became a pupil of 'Mr. M.' (possibly Guillaume Mechtler). The accurate dance-step descriptions written in after the final bars of more than a dozen pieces provide a contemporary account of how the music actually was danced - an important aid to the authentic reconstruction of dances of the period. The book is held at the Hôpital Général de Québec

The manuscript book of Cécile Lagueux, sister-in-law of Édouard Glackemeyer, dates from ca 1817 and is preserved in a private collection in Quebec City. On 107 pages it contains dances and other instrumental music and 16 songs. Two of the songs, arranged by Frederick Glackemeyer, are considered by Lucien Poirier as the earliest transcriptions of voyageur songs (Canadian Musical Heritage, vol 7).

Examples of manuscript books compiled by professional musicians are the two (held at Library and Archives Canada) of Frederick Andrews (1804-85, the organist at the Anglican cathedral in Quebec City). Begun in 1828, they include sacred music by Handel, Haydn, and Mozart and instrumental pieces by Corelli, Cherubini, and Weber, as well as two of Andrews' own songs. Two manuscript books labelled 'Musique sacrée' and containing T.F. Molt's repertoire were acquired by the National Library of Canada (LAC) and manuscripts in the hand of Louis-Édouard Glackemeyer, probably for use by his own chamber ensemble and the Quebec Harmonic Society, became the property of Laval University. An organ book of the Anglican cathedral in Quebec City from the early 19th century has been the basis of performances by the Ensemble Nouvelle-France.

The use of manuscript notebooks before schoolbooks were available is seen in examples preserved at the Jordan Historical Museum of the Twenty, Jordan, Ont. Dated 1804-34, they were written by the pupils of the Mennonite German school in Clinton Township, Niagara peninsula. Michael S. Bird's Ontario Fraktur (Toronto 1977) mentions 12 such books with musical notation from the Pennsylvania-German community (illustrations p 26-36 and 43), dating between 1788 and 1834. Dorothy H. Farquharson, in her O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing (Waterdown, Ont, 1983) discusses the music notebook of Judith Humphrey, a native of Ireland, dated 1813, preserved at the Eva Brook Donley Museum at Simcoe, Ont.

Another important type of manuscript book was that devoted to folksongs. The collection of Edward Ermatinger, which dates from ca 1830, belongs to Library and Archives Canada (see Ethnomusicology). A list of such books is given in Conrad Laforte'sLa Chanson folklorique et les écrivains du XIXe siècle (Montreal 1973). Most of these, however, contain only words. The original manuscript books are preserved at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Archives du Séminaire de Québec, and the Montreal City Library.


Further Reading

  • Gallat-Morin, Elisabeth, and Pinson, Jean-Pierre. La Vie musicale en Nouvelle-France (Québec 2003)