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Letters of Note 🎼

The substantial historic correspondence of an outstanding Victorian music publisher has recently found a new home at the British Library.

Founded in London in 1855 by George Augener (1830–1915), Augener Ltd began as an importer of foreign music, but by the turn of the twentieth century, through an expansive publishing programme and the acquisition of companies including Robert Cocks & Co, the catalogue boasted several thousand titles. In addition to selling their own publications, from 1873 to 1937 Augener were the sole UK agents for Edition Peters, Leipzig. For the four years leading up to the First World War, they were briefly owned by Schott & Co, before regaining their independence. In 1960 Augener acquired the catalogues of Joseph Williams and A Weekes & Co, but were themselves sold to Galaxy Music Corporation (New York) in 1962, eventually coming under the ownership of Stainer & Bell via Galliard Ltd in 1972.

Born near Frankfurt in 1830, George Augener emigrated to England in 1852, initially residing in Brighton before setting up Augener’s Edition in London in 1855. George was a highly successful businessman who became an influential figure in the music industry. At his handsome mansion overlooking Clapham Common he entertained leading composers and musicians of the day, including distinguished names such as Hans von Bülow, Delius, Rubinstein, Xavier Scharwenka and Wagner. Edvard Grieg and his wife Nina were frequent visitors, and it was said that whenever they stayed with the Augeners, in their honour George would fly the Norwegian flag outside his residence.

Over the course of five decades at the helm of the company, George compiled an impressive collection of personal correspondence, written by an illustrious roll call of musical figures from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The papers were presented to Augener Ltd by his estate on 24 April 1928.

Reviewing the papers during the pandemic, our Managing Director Antony Kearns was both astounded and excited to discover that the corpus included three letters from Brahms, seventeen from Grieg, as well as items from Bruckner, Joachim and many other esteemed correspondents.

 

Having identified the importance of the documents, we recognised our responsibility to ensure their proper preservation, cataloguing and insurance. Unfortunately, our private, commercial library is not well placed to make such a collection available to interested parties. We therefore invited the British Library to review the letters, to see whether the collection might be of interest, and indeed whether it might offer them a permanent new home. We were delighted when the Library confirmed an interest, especially as other Augener material was already held in the collection, providing unique insights into the working practices of an historic British publishing house. On 20 December 2023 the papers were delivered by hand to the Library’s Head of Music Collections, Sandra Tuppen, and its Lead Curator, Music Manuscripts, Chris Scobie, and in due course they will be documented, catalogued and made available to future music scholars.

Stainer & Bell are delighted that the correspondence will be maintained as a single collection, rather than being broken up and dispersed far and wide. We are especially grateful to the British Library Collections Trust for making this acquisition possible. We cannot imagine a more appropriate home for this small yet intensely fascinating window into the world of music publishing in this period.

CORRESPONDENTS
Correspondents include: Constance Bache, William T Best, Johannes Brahms, Max Bruch, Anton Bruckner*, Hans von Bülow, Giuseppe Buonamici*, Cécile Chaminade, Friedrich Chrysander, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Frederick Cowen, Eugen D’Albert, Edward Dannreuther, Fritz Delius, Edward Elgar, Harry Farjeon, John Farmer, Robert Franz*, Gustave García, Edward German, Otto Goldschmidt, Georg Goltermann, Richard Gompertz, Harry Plunket Greene, George Grove, Charles Hallé, John L Hatton, Helene Heale, George Henschel, Adolf von Henselt, Hubert von Herkomer, Friedrich Hermann, Ferdinand Hillier*, Alfred James Hipkins, Bolko von Hochberg*, Richard Hofmann, Hans Huber*, Marie Jensen, Joseph Joachim*, Fritz Kirchner, Richard Kleinmichel, Ernesto Köhler, Emil Kreuz, Arnold Krug, C Lachner, H Macdonnell, A Macheroni, Alexander Mackenzie, August Manns, Middleton, Benno Moiseiwitsch, Tivadar Nachez, Rosa Newmarch, Frederick Niecks, Charles Oberthür, C Hubert Parry, Ernst Pauer, Max Pauer, Pearce, Ebenezer Prout, Carl Reinecke, Hugo Riemann, John F Runciman, Camille Saint-Saëns, Xaver Scharwenka, Hermann Scholtz, Carl Schroeder, Eduard Schütt, Ludvig Schytte, Otakar Sevcik, John S Shedlock, Christian Sinding, Hans Sitt, Charles V Stanford, Zygmunt Stojowski, Franklin Taylor, Alfred Tofft, Albert Visetti, Werner, Charles-Marie Widor and Wesley S B Woolhouse.

* Not included in the BL acquisition 

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