Thomas Cross Jr. was the first music printer to capitalize on the growth of public musical performances in late seventeenth-century England by producing cheap, single-sheet editions of the newest and most popular songs, especially those from the latest theater productions, for audience members and others in fashionable society to buy. As England’s first specialist music engraver, he was able to produce his simple prints of individual songs unusually quickly and to sell them at a fraction of the price of the larger movable-type anthologies that remained the mainstay of established London music stationers in this period. In the absence of intellectual property laws, Cross was free to print any music he could acquire, and he soon came to be seen as a threat by composers and music stationers alike. He clearly did not enjoy good relationships with contemporary composers, and we can safely assume that they did not supply him with his source materials. Given that his prints were nearly always the first published editions of the theater songs to appear in print, how did he obtain his musical texts? This article examines the hypothesis that Cross’s engravings may have derived directly from the stage performances of the singers he names in the titles of his editions, and that they may reflect the singers’ interpretations of the music “exactly engrav’d,” as Cross claimed. Comparison of the variants in Cross’s editions with readings preserved in sources that have known connections to contemporary performance demonstrates that his prints—despite their not undeserved reputation for inaccuracy—probably preserve contemporary performing practices more closely than has hitherto been acknowledged. Their significance as sources thus needs to be reevaluated, which raises broader questions about the criteria that scholars use when making judgments about the relative authority of sources from this period.
“Exactly engrav’d by Tho: Cross”? The Role of Single-Sheet Prints in Preserving Performing Practices from the Restoration Stage
Rebecca Herissone is professor of musicology at the University of Manchester, a Fellow of the British Academy, and was co-editor of Music and Letters from 2007 to 2019. She works primarily on the creativity, material culture, and reception of early modern English music. She has published three monographs, most recently Musical Creativity in Restoration England (Cambridge University Press, 2013), which was awarded the Diana McVeagh Prize in 2015; she also received the Westrup Prize in 2007.
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Rebecca Herissone; “Exactly engrav’d by Tho: Cross”? The Role of Single-Sheet Prints in Preserving Performing Practices from the Restoration Stage. Journal of Musicology 10 July 2020; 37 (3): 305–348. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jm.2020.37.3.305
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