Saturday, August 2, 2014

|e artist:
Recognizing Sheet Music Illustrators

Since my time at the UNC Music Library cataloging sheet music is coming to a close, I wanted to share with others (and record for myself) some of the artists whose work and monograms I have come to know well. Sadly I cannot share all of my favorite cover images due to copyright laws, but even with these limitations I have a considerable number of photos to post. Since my job was solely confined to cataloging these scores and not digitizing them, the pictures included here are not of the highest quality. I simply would take a few quick snapshots of interesting covers at the end of my work day. Hopefully the quality of the images does nothing to diminish the artists' work. Luckily some of the items in the UNC Sheet Music Collection will soon be given the attention they are due through professional digitization. Work has begun on digitizing all of the sheet music in the collection associated with World War I, a few examples of which are included below. I am looking forward to seeing the entire collection online and think it will get a lot of use from students and scholars. I am personally thinking of using the collection this fall for a seminar on art and WWI.

While some might feel that noting the names of cover artists in bibliographic records for the Music Library is out of scope, I feel strongly that bib records should be created with a broad audience in mind so that the items cataloged are used more frequently and fully. Most individuals visiting the Music Library to see the Sheet Music Collection likely will only be interested in the musical characteristics of these items. Yet the objects themselves convey much more than notes and lyrics. By more completely documenting the information found in these items, one increases the possible ways they can be used. With procedures like More Product Less Process (MPLP) becoming more and more accepted, I realize giving such attention to these items is a luxury, but how would anyone but the most prepared scholar find covers by particular artists without including the artist as an added author? Therefore I have tried to include the artist who designed the cover to the music wherever possible and indicate his or her relationship to the work through adding "|e artist" to the end of the added author 700 field with the artist's name.

I feel that adding this information to these records is especially important because many of these cover artists are not accepted by the fine art world due to the commercial nature of their work. Because of this, you will not find the names or monograms of these cover artists alongside those of fine artists in Oxford Art Online or other databases. If both the art and music establishments disregard the contributions these artists have made, the information they created could become lost. Luckily Wikipedia and libraries have not allowed these artists to fall through the cracks. While I believe that the discipline of art history could remedy this threat and enrich their field through being more accepting of such works, that is a discussion for another time.

Enjoy the covers below and use the links I have included to find more works by each artist. To see the library records for the works below, search the UNC OPAC.

Artists & Examples

Rolf Armstrong (1889-1960)

Albert Barbelle (1887-1957)

Edward B. Edwards (1873-1948)

Mabel Betsy Hill (1872-1956)

The lyrics to this song will bring a smile to your face.

Frederick S. Manning (1874-1960)

Rosenbaum Studios / Morris Rosenbaum (1886-1953)

Collective signature for the brothers William & Frederick Starmer

André De Takacs (1880-1919)

Additional Artists
Majority of their work is still within copyright

Pud Lane

Sidney Leff (1901-2005)

Cliff Miska

Collections of Sheet Music Featuring Illustrations

Brown University Library for Digital Scholarship -World War I Sheet Music

Duke University Libraries - Historic American Sheet Music
Includes the option to search by illustrator and also has a helpful list of additional collections and resources to visit.

Gonzaga University Digital Collections - The Howard W. Wildin Sheet Music Collection
Gonzaga University also has created a LibGuide on sheet music that includes a section on "Cover Artists." 

Illustrated Sheet Music
Has a special focus on art nouveau and art deco covers and also conveniently allows you to search by illustrator.

Mississippi State Digital Collections - Charles Templeton Sheet Music Collection

"Perfessor" Bill Edwards: Professional Purveyor of Pianistic Pyrotechnics
- Cover Artist Profiles
Website created by Bill Edwards, a current cover artist. While the website design would benefit from being updated, this site includes good biographies of several key artists and their signatures/monograms.

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