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A Reader’s First Book at Boydell: The Idea of Art Music in a Commercial World, 1800–1930

When I was asked to write this blog post, I thought long and hard about which Boydell & Brewer book to write about. Musicians of Bath and Beyond, perhaps? I contributed a chapter to it, so I’m pretty proud of that one. Or maybe The Pursuit of High Culture by Christina Bashford? Bashford’s ideas were enormously influential for me when I was formulating my dissertation on English opera. In the end, I settled on The Idea of Art Music in a Commercial World, 1800–1930, since it’s the book that’s resonating the most with me right now.

One of the things I like the most about The Idea of Art Music is the way Britain plays a central role. Although the collection isn’t just about Britain, the prominence of British subjects illustrates the economic importance of Britain within musical culture. I study Victorian music and I’ve spent a lot of my scholarly career reading books that dismiss Britain from the musical narrative entirely. It’s refreshing to read a book that brings so many facets of British musical culture under one umbrella: the celebrity hoopla surrounding singers, composers, and conductors; the rich and complex markets for domestic and amateur music making; and the way print culture affects how the public thinks about music.

Although I am a musicologist by training, in my day job I make books at Clemson University Press. Thus, I now pay a lot more attention to the physical aspects of books. On that front, The Idea of Art Music also has much to recommend it. The paper stock is a nice weight—a bit heavier than most—and the designer chose a versatile and readable font. When so many presses are using endnotes for ease of typesetting, it’s a delight to find a book with actual footnotes. This reader is thankful for citations and content notes on the same page!

Happy Birthday, Boydell & Brewer! I hope you continue to publish well-made books that enhance my understanding of music in Victorian Britain.


This guest post was written by Alison Mero, Managing Editor at Clemson University Press. Alison has contributed a chapter to Boydell publication Musicians of Bath and Beyond: Edward Loder (1809-1865) and his Family (published in 2016 by Boydell Press).

The Idea of Art Music in a Commercial World, 1800-1930
Edited by Christina Bashford, Roberta Montemorra Marvin
Hardback / 9781783270651 / £48.75 or $86.25
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