Illustrated Song Sheets from the Music Library collections

In 2014, whilst staff at the Central Music Library were preparing for the move of the Library from no. 9 to no. 7 George IV Bridge, they uncovered a box of Victorian and Edwardian illustrated song sheets. This unexpected find had been carefully stored and tucked away on the Annexe shelves. Further investigation has found the collection to contain works by many of the major lithographic artists of the genre.

The Shop-Girl Valse, c1895

The Shop-Girl Valse, illustration by W. George c1895

The majority of the music scores date from the mid-Victorian era when both colour lithography and music sheets were at their peak in innovation and output.  The Victorian era had a burgeoning live entertainment industry, with packed music halls and populist performers such as George Leyborne and Arthur Lloyd. As the music hall scene became more accessible to the wider middle classes and with the emergence of the piano in the parlours of respectable Victorian homes the demand for music sheets increased.

Demand was coupled with advances in colour lithography which made it possible to create for the first time, elaborate and quite technically advanced illustrations.

Girofle Girofla, illustration by Alfred Concanen, 1874

Girofle Girofla, illustration by Alfred Concanen, 1874

The Music Library collection contains illustrations by such well-known lithographic artists as Alfred Conanen, John Brandard, HG Banks, HC Maguire and Thomas Packer amongst others, displaying a variety of styles and subjects. The song sheet illustrations also chart developments within colour lithography with the move towards the use of machines at the end of the nineteenth century, and the advent of the use of photography and typography within song sheet cover production.

Me-ow One Step, illustration by T. Ray, c1919

Me-ow One Step, illustration by T. Ray, c1919

The song sheet collection provides a visual history of Victorian and Edwardian life and a fascinating insight into the world of music hall entertainment.

Come and see a selection of the song sheets on display in the Mezzanine, Central Library (2- 29 September 2016) and or browse them online in a special Capital Collections exhibition.

If you’d like to find out more about the Illustrated Song Sheet Collection contact 0131 242 8050 or email central.music.library@edinburgh.gov.uk.

Randolph Caldecott: An illustrator’s perspective

Our latest exhibition on Capital Collections, Randolph Caldecott: An illustrator’s perspective, was created by Ashley Burch an Art History postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh. She completed the research for the exhibition as part of the collaborative internship programme between the University and Central Library.

Ashley was drawn to the Library’s children’s illustrated books collection and in particular to the work of Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886). Caldecott is perhaps best known for his children’s book illustrations that feature traditional nursery rhymes and songs, however this exhibition centres on images from the ‘Sketchbook of R. Caldecott’s’ (1883) and the posthumous ‘Graphic Pictures’ (1891). Both books are designed to give the impression of a diary or travel journal and are supplemented with Caldecott’s own written excerpts. This technique gives viewers the chance to experience Caldecott’s thought processes as he created his illustrations.

Mr. Chumley's holidays

Many of the sketches in this exhibition serve as a reflection of the life and style of the English middle- and upper-middle classes in the Victorian era. The image taken from ‘Mr. Chumley’s Holidays’, describes Caldecott’s observations of life and romance acquired while travelling to resorts in England and abroad.

Caldecott characteristically portrayed individuals, many of who were well-known acquaintances, as they went about their daily activities. This exhibition, An illustrator’s perspective, seeks to not only illuminate the carefree jovial tone of Caldecott’s work, but also provide a glimpse of the man behind the illustrations.

Central Inspiration

HannahBotma_1Prepare to be inspired as you follow an innovative art trail through Central Library.  Original artwork by Edinburgh College of Art masters students, which was inspired by the building and its collections, form the Central Inspiration exhibition, on display until the end of August.

The aim of the project was to highlight the importance of tactile objects in the library in a digital age.  MA Graphic Design student Sigrid Schmeisser said: “While libraries must incorporate technology to compete with their online counterparts, we cannot discount the tactile nature of public libraries that cannot be recreated on-screen. Libraries are often home to rare books, prints and manuscripts and unlike a museum the public has access to these artefacts which is an interaction that no scan or image can recreate.”

To celebrate this aspect of a traditional library, the 15 postgraduate graphic design and illustration students installed pieces around the main public areas of the Central Library building to encourage audiences to explore the collections.  The work ranges from light reflecting mobiles in the children’s library to an Edgar Allan Poe inspired illustration in reference.  There’s a digital animation in the Lending Library and ornate paper crafts outside the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection.

DanDan-Chen_img11-1024x763You can collect a map at the foyer of the library and use it to navigate your way through these wonderful pieces.  The process was also filmed to allow you, dear library user, to click a QR code beside the artwork and discover the inspiration behind it.

Here’s a taste of what the artists had to say:

Visit the Central Inspiration website for more information on the project and view more videos on our You Tube Channel.