From Germany to London, to America

Posted on 15th April 2020 by simonbeattie

Many of the items in the Anglo-German Cultural Relations catalogue are rife with cross-cultural connections. One such item is the copy of John Frederick Lampe’s A plain and compendious Method of teaching Thorough Bass, after the most rational Manner … (London, J. Wilcox, 1737).

This, the first (and only) edition was dedicated to Colonel John Blathwayt (1690–1754), director of the Academy of Music (and who had studied the harpsichord under Scarlatti as a child).  ‘I am sensible from many Years Practice, that there is nothing more wanted in the Musical Way than plain and intelligible Rules for Thorough Bass …  I don’t publish this Piece for the Instruction of those who are already Masters of the Subject … but for the Use and Benefit of Scholars, for which Reason I have made it so intelligible, that I think no one will mistake my Meaning’ (Preface).

The composer Johann Friedrich Lampe (1702/3–1751), ‘sometime Student at Helmstad in Saxony’ as the title-page here styles him, arrived in London about 1725, ‘when he became a bassoon player in the opera band.  According to Burney, Handel had the first British contrabassoon made for Lampe to play for George II’s 1727 coronation’ (Oxford DNB), although ‘he did not attract much public attention until 1732–3, when he was the prime mover in a project to promote English opera at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket’ (New Grove), turning out three full-length operas within a year.  His popularity as a composer in England was assured; The Dragon of Wantley (1737), to a libretto by Henry Carey, held the stage until 1782.

The early American bookplate here (Charles Frederick Fisher of York, Penn.), set in elegant italics, is attractive in its simplicity.  ‘These old type-set labels with their quaint borders of ornamental type,—scrolls, flourishes, stars, vines, and even grammatical signs,—are usually found to be printed on good white handmade paper, which was seldom trimmed with care … these served the less pretentious of our ancestors in lieu of the coats-of-arms and family mottoes of higher lineage, and are found in quantities throughout the New England and Middle States’ (Charles Dexter Allen, American Book-Plates, pp. 18–19).

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