It was in 1945 that O. E. Deutsch, the well‐known musical bibliographer, first put forward a plea for a British Union Catalogue of Old Music. Other branches of knowledge had provided themselves with just such an invaluable instrument of research as a Union Catalogue presents, why not music? There were lively discussions at that time in the music room of the University Library, Cambridge, where D. R. Wakeling, then music librarian, was an ardent supporter of the scheme right from the start. Two things were clear: (1) there was an urgent need for a comprehensive list of music, British and foreign, which would show the location of the works of the old masters in their various editions; and (2) there could not be any doubt that the British libraries possessed a great wealth of musical treasures but that it was for the most part untapped. In fact, the knowledge of the extent and state of the different music collections in Britain was, with a few exceptions, more than sketchy; in many cases it was nil. This lack of information presented one of the biggest problems right from the start; for how should such a vast scheme be tackled when one was almost completely ignorant of its scope? It was proposed to take as a basis the collection of pre‐1800 music in the British Museum, as catalogued in two volumes by W. Barclay Squire and published in 1912, and to work from an interleaved copy of this catalogue which, it was thought, would be sufficient to accommodate all additional entries. Discussions, articles, and meetings followed and in 1946 the actual work of compilation was taken in hand. It was due above all to the generous gift made by the late Gerald Cooper, himself a keen music enthusiast and an original member of the Council up to his death in 1947, that the initial funds necessary for such an ambitious undertaking were provided. These were supplemented in October 1952 by liberal financial support from the Pilgrim Trust which, it is hoped, will enable the work to be carried through to its successful conclusion. A Council was formed in 1946 with the late Canon E. H. Fellowes, the great musical scholar, as its chairman. C. B. Oldman, the Principal Keeper of Printed Books in the British Museum, who has served as honorary Treasurer from the very beginning, took over the chairmanship after Canon Fellowes's death in 1951. Following Th. Besterman and F. C. Francis, A. Hyatt King, Assistant Keeper in charge of the Collections of Printed Music in the British Museum, became honorary Secretary to the Council in 1948. O. E. Deutsch was appointed editor and was succeeded in 1950 by the present writer.
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Copyright © 1953, MCB UP Limited