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Feature March 2014

Prints on Music Covers

Victorian England was the age of live entertainment, from grand Balls to musical soirees in respectable middle class houses, and at the lower end of the social strata, to the more exuberant performances of the music halls and taverns. Thus there was a great demand for sheet music of every description.

The title page of the sheet was often decorated with a printed scene or portrait, sometimes in colour, sometimes just in black and white. These are invariably printed by lithography, but in the 1850’s and 1860’s this market was also a commercial market for both Baxter and the Licensee printers. They supplied some of their prints to the music publishers, who would use them to embellish the title pages of their sheet music.

George Baxter's The Holy Family on Music Cover

Baxter’s prints on music covers are not uncommon, although specific subjects such as “The Small Winter” are very rare. Top of the Best Sellers List was “The Holy Family” (how times have changed!).

In all nineteen Baxter subjects can be found in this state and these are fairly well documented. Less well known and recorded are the Licensee prints on sheet music. They also supplied this market, but considering their production costs were lower than Baxter’s, it is surprising how few subjects in this state have been found.