Cheap print: new book about pocket-sized popular music anthologies from the nineteenth century

Dr Paul Watt
(Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music) and Dr Patrick Spedding (LLCL)—with Professor Derek B. Scott (University of Leeds)—are the editors of a new book published today by Cambridge University Press.

Cheap Print and Popular Song in the Nineteenth Century: A Cultural History of the Songster is a study of pocket-sized anthologies of song texts, usually without musical notation.

Called songsters these anthologies were published in the thousands—sometimes tens of thousands—but few have survived into the twenty-first century.

This book examines the musical, social, commercial and aesthetic functions songsters served and the processes by which they were produced and disseminated, the repertory they included, and the singers, printers and entrepreneurs that both inspired their manufacture and facilitated their consumption.

Taking an international perspective, chapters focus on songsters from Australia, Britain, Ireland and North America and the varied public and private contexts in which they were used and exploited in oral and print cultures.

‘Putting this book together has been exciting not only for us as the editors, but also for our contributors. We have looked in far-flung places for these rare artefacts and to bring their histories to life has been fantastic. Learning about the composers, performers, printers and audiences for these songsters has been a revelation,’ said Dr PaulWatt.

Cheap Print and Popular Song in the Nineteenth Century is the second book published as part of the Monash–Leeds Research Partnership in Music. In 2011, Dr Paul and Dr Spedding co-edited Bawdy Songbooks of the Romantic Period, which was published to wide critical acclaim.

Dr Spedding comments: ‘We have been very lucky to have had the chance to, first, recover a large collection of lost nineteenth-century songsters and, then, to have been able to facilitate the publication of path-breaking new research on the significance of songsters in general. A lot remains to be done, but we are now closer than ever to understanding the scope of popular song in the nineteenth-century.’

Other books arising from the Monash–Leeds partnership include the Oxford Handbook of Music and Intellectual Culture in the Nineteenth Century (edited by Paul Watt, Sarah Collins and Michael Allis) and The Symphonic Poem in Britain, 1850–1940: Texts and Contexts (edited by Michael Allis and Paul Watt).

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