My late, quaint, great-aunt Blanche bequeathed to me one rickety bamboo side table and a small collection of music.  Amongst the music was a Musical Bouquet piece - W. Shields’ “The Wolf”, which, although a very sorry copy,  caught my eye.   After coming across another piece by the same publisher, a long and leisurely hunt for others ensued and  eventually the  catalogue, produced here, came into being.  My catalogue has been compiled from archives in The British Library where copies up to No. 8106 are in bound volumes, the Bodleian, The Musical Bouquet Catalogue for  1897 with most copies up to No. 9046 and also various private collections including my own.  Given that some copies, according to the number of pages, used one, two, three or four numbers, the catalogue contains some 6,870 pieces numbered from 1 to 9160d.  Two out of three copies were singles, though in later years the ratio was more three to four.

             The ‘Musical Bouquet’ embraces the following three elements:

  (1) The ‘Musical Bouquet’ catalogue of numerically sequenced pieces from 1845 – 1898. 

  (2)  ‘Other Publications’ containing hundreds of items including song albums and tutors.

  (3)  ‘Standard  Music’.   Standard Music is the term used by the firm for the more expensive and often coloured sheet music produced from the 1860’s onwards.

            London in the 1800’s was a hive of activity for publishers working from a myriad of small premises, many around the Oxford Circus area and St. Paul’s. I like to think of  the Musical Bouquet’s progenitors, James Bingley and William Strange, perhaps in company with their illustrator Alfred Ashley and the first editor Francis Lancelott contemplating and then planning their new series in 1844.   They may  have been prompted by the success of Davidson’s  “The Musical Treasury”, which started in 1844 and sold at the affordable price of 3d per copy.  However, whereas Davidson set his music typographically, Bingley and Strange decided to etch the music on steel, which made it more attractive, easier to read  and  yet also sold for 3d per single copy.

            Alfred Ashley, the principal illustrator, had already published etchings of maps, a book on etching and he and Bingley had collaborated in producing “Bingley’s Select Vocalist” in 1844 .  This two volume work surely set the pattern for the Musical Bouquet, which  first used mainly half-page illustrations by Alfred Ashley .  Publication  of  the M.B. series ran from January 1845 to ca.1898,  a single copy, (four sides),sold for 3d each,  6d for a double copy , 9d for a triple  and a few quadruples for 1/-.  These prices remained the same for over fifty years!  The dynamic Charles Sheard Snr., associated with the firm from 1849, and soon to be the proprietor, rapidly doubled the yearly output from one piece per week to two and in the peek years of production in 1864/5 to 8 copies per week. This increase in production was surely the reason for repeated designs coming in to use. On Charles Sheard’s death in 1873, his son, Charles Henry Sheard assumed control of the firm as senior partner until his death in 1913. Until the sale of the firm, it might have been controlled by his second wife Clara Elizabeth.

            The dating of the pieces in the Musical Bouquet series is somewhat complicated as there are no documentary accounts left from the firm – no diaries, no day books, no letters – and the pieces in this catalogue have been dated by referring to the published music, newspaper advertisements, political and social events plus a few dated illustrations.  The date given to each piece is fairly reliable to a year either side.

            The ‘Musical Bouquet’ for the first few years was a weekly publication, providing music cheaply for the public and following closely in the footsteps of G.H. Davidson’s ‘The Musical Treasury’.  After each six months the editor would produce a Bound Volume. (Volumes 1-4 being edited by Francis Lancelott  and Volumes 5-8 edited by George J. Oliver Allmann)  For each volume, the editor changed some of the original pieces to those of his own choice therefore, I have highlighted in green all those pieces whose numbers duplicate those produced weekly even though the title is different.

             Though one amongst a plethora of publishing houses in London and the provinces in the 1800’s, the Musical Bouquet can hold its head high in that it provided  “cheap and sterling” music for the masses over most of Queen Victoria’s reign, Edward VII's and into the first 7 years of George the Vth. 

Three hearty cheers for Bingley and Strange!

Three mighty hearty cheers for Charles Sheard, both senior and junior!

Three even mightier and heartier cheers for ‘The Musical Bouquet’!  

I met Peter Gammond many years ago and was happy to find that he too had an affection for the 'M.B.' - enjoy his essay.

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