Thursday, 23 February 2017

Vintage Treasure: Edward Cochrane's musical score scrapbook

Hey you. How's things? 

It won't surprise you to know I've been treasure hunting again.

We spent a few hours in a market town last Saturday and there's no better way to aid post-lunch digestion than a good rummage among the racks, shelves and boxes found in charity shops. And yes, of course, a lot of the papery treasures I unearth eventually gets snipped into, cut up, upcycled, recycled, repurposed, and re-loved ...  but some ... some find their way directly to the safety of my 'don't even think about cutting this up' shelf. 

And today's treasure is the latest to do just that. Come and have a look ... 

Vintage music score scrapbook

It's always a thrill. Always.

Like finding grains of gold in a stream when you're really only looking for pebbles.

It's a glimmer of human connection, an instant recognition; an acknowledgement of something that's simultaneously entirely new to you, and yet utterly familiar; it's evidence, a trace, of a real human life ...

It's finding pages of someone's handwriting in a box of printed books.

Vintage music score scrapbook

Flipping through a box of old sheet music booklets I suddenly caught sight of his handwriting and I didn't need to look any further to know his book was coming home with me.

This is generally what happens with me: once I've spotted handwriting I know I'm in for a treat.

I know I'm going to hold and read something quite different to the remainder of the contents of the box. I know I'm going to 'meet' someone across the years. I know I'm likely the first person in a long time - perhaps the first person since the original owner - to look at a tattered old, written-in, book and think "How special! That's mine."

Oh and the 'he' that I connected with in a pile of vintage music books, while crouched on the floor or a charity shop, is Edward Cochrane from Shotton Colliery, County Durham:
Handwriting in vintage book
Pleased to meet you Edward. How'd'you'do? Do I call you Eddie? Shall I put the kettle on?

Once I had a firm grip on Edward's book (you can't be too careful ... how do I know there isn't another avid paper ephemera collector watching over me while I rummage, waiting to swoop in and steal my treasure if I show signs of weakness?) I opened the covers and found that - on the first few pages - he'd stuck down some sheet music pamphlets:
Vintage music scores
It made me wonder if perhaps this journal, with soft covers carefully covered with protective brown paper, started life as Edward's scrapbook where he intended to store the key pieces he needed for a performance:
Vintage violin music scrapbook
But then, those pre-printed booklets come to an end and the remainder of the book is (brace yourself because this made me go a bit dreamy), the remainder of the book is handwritten:
So what happened? Did Edward run out of funds for buying original scores?
Did he instead turn to borrowing what he needed from friends, colleagues, band mates, copying them and returning them? 
And in a time before photocopying, 'copying' was no 20 second task, it meant sitting and transferring each and every note by hand. A task which, judging by how meticulously this appears throughout the book, was one Edward took seriously:
As for what kind of tunes Edward was collecting in his journal:
  • there's a handwritten list on the inside cover listing various 'quadrilles';
  • and there are references to a 'galop' and various barn dances.
So it looks like he was involved in a musical group that accompanied dancing.

And - I think it's not too fantastical to surmise that - living in Shotton Colliery as he did, in the heart of Durham's coal-mining country, he must have been influenced by, if not part of, the tradition of colliery brass bands.  (A quick search online for the address he's written in the front of the book reveals this photo, which shows his street, with a colliery working away in the background.)

And now ... for the foreseeable future, I'm going to look after Edward's old book of dances; I'm going to hang on to the pages that are falling out, to the brown paper peeling away from the cover ... and to the handwriting.

The handwriting that says more than what it spells out ... 

The handwriting that says: "I was here." "I, Edward Cochrane of Shotton Colliery, County Durham, existed."

"I lived in a town where everyone either was a coal miner, or knew a coal miner. And I wrote my initials on the cover of a book I carried around with me; a book of music that I'd carefully hand-copied in pen and ink. And then ... when I sat down, opened my book, and began to play ... 

... people danced." 
And there it is again. Finding handwriting is always a thrill.



And if you just want to leave a comment/get in touch to squeal with excitement over Edward's music journal then please do ... I think he'd be tickled to know that, however many years in the future, his passion for music was still keeping people entertained! 

Julie x

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  1. Have you played any of the tunes yet? What an amazing find!

    1. I'm not at all musical Heather! But I've looked up a few 'quadrilles' on Youtube to get the idea!

  2. Oh that is a treasure! I'm not a great lover of second hand things in general, but books and letters, well papery things in general, I can do. How can old books and papers not emit positive vibes? They just draw you in :-)

  3. What a lovely piece of history you have there. It has certainly found a safe new home with you!

  4. Squealing. You can probably hear me. This is just wonderful!

  5. Eeek! Wow! What a seriously brilliant find, and he'd be delighted that it came to rest with someone who really appreciated both it and him. There must be records about him somewhere ... You could write a book :). I bet he'd be tickled pink that it was on display right across the world!

  6. I can't even find the words for how amazing this is. I'm also fascinated by old handwriting and it makes me a bit sad that we're leaving fewer handwritten treasures behind these days. Then again maybe I'm just feeling emotional today because your last "quote" from Edward there made me tear up a bit. =) Thanks for sharing this!


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