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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa

Music publishing

Music publishing

Most of the history of music publishing and music publishers in New Zealand remains to be written. Very little has been documented, either of the companies or individuals involved in the industry, or of the actual material published by them, so any analysis of output, trends or influences has not been carried out. John Mansfield Thomson's The Oxford History of New Zealand Music (1991) does mention a number of early New Zealand music publications, but in the music history context rather than as a more specific publishing history. However, his survey does point to the desirability of further exploring the relationships between the social context and publication patterns, for example the proliferation in publications of nationalistic songs which occurred during any period of conflict.

Early music publishing was usually in the hands of individual printers or lithographers, with some involvement by the newspaper presses. Identification of the individuals or firms involved has barely started, nor has the relationship between many of the publishers, printers and composers. Entries in works such as the Cyclopedia of New Zealand are few and far between, and it is apparent that the early music publishers had this work very much as a sideline, making tracing their development more difficult. Research through more general printing and publishing trade listings could well prove fruitful.

Three companies attained a long term prominence in the industry. Arthur Eady (and its various off-shoots), Charles Begg, and the Wai-te-ata Press are the most important New Zealand music publishers, yet there has been almost no work on either their company histories, or their publications. Work on other individual firms, including the Brett Printing Co., the Dresden Pianoforte Agency (later Bristol Pianos), Whitcombe & Tombs, Price Milburn, Maoriland, Sevenseas, the Lyttelton Times, Daly's, and Newson & Stroud is also urgently required as the source material is becoming scarcer and is deteriorating. It is regrettable that the fates of the publishing records of most of these companies are currently unknown.

There is no bibliography of the actual published items. Given that the earlier national bibliographies did not include sheet music, there is still much to be found and documented. The somewhat ephemeral nature of some printed music makes the search for the early published items all the more urgent. Recent technological developments resulting in the relatively easy production of scores from the personal computer has made research into recent publishing history even harder because there has been an increase in the self-published, or published-on-demand titles. The lists compiled by Ross Harvey (Music at National Archives, 1991b), and Elizabeth Nichol ('New Zealand music registered for copyright 1879-1900', 1984) act as a starting point for music from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Various issues of The Canterbury Series of Bibliographies, Catalogues and Source Documents in Music also serve as useful references and pointers to other avenues of investigation. A survey of the music publishing history should also take note of the various music periodicals such as Music In New Zealand (1931-37) which sometimes contained complete musical works, either of a New Zealand origin or from overseas.