Alan Davison, New South Wales), Collecting Musical Prints in Late Eighteenth-Century England: Taste, Self-Improvement and John Bland’s “Portrait Series”

The peak in London’s “craze” for music in the early 1790s coincided with an equally passionate and even more enduring enthusiasm for collecting printed portraits. Arguably the peak in this joint phenomenon was the series of portraits published by the entrepreneurial music seller John Bland and his successor Frances Linley. During the 1790s Bland and Linley published a set of nine portrait prints (all but one by the artist Thomas Hardy) of prominent musicians: Joseph Haydn, Johann Peter Salomon, Jan Ladislav Dussek, Ignaz Pleyel, Wilhelm Cramer, Muzio Clementi, William Shield, Edward Miller, and Samuel Arnold. These prints of professional musicians sit nicely and revealingly between an aesthetic object and a consumable good, holding a position that breaks down arbitrary boundaries and fixed approaches to their research. This article uses a material culture approach to examining the influences that acted upon music print collectors of the time, especially guides to self-improvement and print catalogues. Further areas of research are suggested, as the prints have explicit links to social, professional and commercial contexts that highlight their role in the mediation and formation of values around music as an art form and musicians as professionals.