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A Peek Inside Dickinson’s iPod?

By Harriet Staff


The Houghton Library Blog recently posted about the digitization of Emily Dickinson’s music book:

Music books or “binders’ volumes” were extremely popular during the years 1830-1870. These personal collections of bound published sheet-music titles were assembled by young women primarily during their adolescent years, when musical training and accomplishment was sought after as a reflection of cultural refinement and gentility.

The music in Emily Dickinson’s binders’ book was collected over a period of about eight years, from 1844–52. Of the sheet music titles in the Dickinson book, 35 percent contain a year of copyright. Another 30 percent can be dated by the plate numbers often included at the bottom of each page of music, used by music publishers to identify and collate their yearly inventory.2 Nearly one third of the Dickinson music book’s content spans the years 1843–45, an active period of musical study for Dickinson (ages 12–14).

The average binder’s volume contains 35 to 45 pieces of music. At just over 100 pieces, Emily Dickinson’s music book is uncommonly large. The book’s content tells us a great deal about her musical interests. Most binders from the period contain a majority of vocal music and only some instrumental numbers. In contrast, eighty percent of the Dickinson book is devoted to instrumental music, indicating Emily’s keen engagement in the piano repertoire of her day.

Wow. The equivalent of a modern-day, Dickinson playlist! Read more here.

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Posted in Poetry News on Friday, September 6th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.