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D.W. Krummel

APHA presented its 2004 Individual Award to D.W. Krummel, Professor Emeritus of Library Science and Music at the University of Illinois at Urbana. He is the author of many books on music printing and the history of bibliography. These acceptance remarks were delivered at APHA’s annual meeting held at the New York Public Library on January 24, 2004, and have been slightly revised for presentation on the web.
I’m delighted by this honor, but I’m also rather embarrassed. I surely don’t want to move that APHA should impeach its Awards Committee. But my manners are bad, my taste is bad, my faith is bad, and my scholarship is bad, and I need to ask you to allow me this confessional.


First, the bad manners: This, briefly, is the sad story of my talk at the annual APHA meeting eighteen years ago. A blizzard kept me from coming in from Illinois a day or two early. So, the day of my talk I got up with the roosters at 4 am, caught a 6 o’clock flight that landed at 9:30, caught a cab, and read my paper about 10:30; and during the afternoon session the day caught up with me. I remember the person I sat next to later giving my a knowing smile that said, “Yes, you did really snore; and loudly.” My other sins lie deeper, and may be less forgivable.

As for bad taste, this is not my own printing many years ago. (After all, it was no worse than my piano playing.) Rather, it is that I should study music printing in the first place. Now music and printing have much in common. Both work through an artistry based in craftsmanship—trained hands working in the one with trained ears, in the other with trained eyes—all of this best learned not from textbooks but through practice under a master. But in one important way the two are quite opposite. The music is gone as soon as it sounds: one must listen very carefully. Printing, on the other hand, leads to objects that are there to be examined afterwards. Good oboists know how to breathe in the middle of a phrase, Wagnerian sopranos know when to mouth it because the brass will drown them out, and the skill with which they cover up is part of the beauty of the performance. But printers who cheat like this are humiliated as long as their presswork survives.

Printed music is rarely handsome to look at, for good reason. Its notation can either be committed to memory, so performances can be thought out: the notation is for reference use, an aide memoire, and the printed copy is a last resort. Or the music may be sight-read: and now the momentum of performance needs to overrule any visual distinction that might distract. Over history, furthermore, musical notation has become increasingly nuanced, so that the ideal printed page has come to look less like a Trajan column, more like an engineering blueprint. Admittedly, without printing, Beethoven would be forgotten; the wonderful heritage of American music would be lost. In the printer’s garden, music may be a weed, but its curative powers can be wonderful.

Next, my bibliographical wickedness. Let’s begin with my 1984 book on compiling, and its review in Sovietskya Bibliografia. Here I am accused of being not only “zhurnalistica” (and for this I’m as sorry as I can be, believe me) but also thirty years behind the times. This is because I don’t see the future of bibliographies as tied to downloading. (I’m naughty; and unrepentant. And I’ll be in even bigger trouble with my next book on the history of bibliographical practice. I can hardly wait.)

Bibliography, to my thinking, has its yin and yang, one called rules, the other service. Let me recall Don McKenzie’s 1992 Bib. Soc. centenary lecture, in which he proposed another contrast: stability and durability, on the one hand, and evanescence on the other. Stable systems are those designed to work rather like the medieval Catholic Church: quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus—forever, everywhere, and for everyone. In bibliography, this stability of course allows us to do wonderful things, like verifying citations and locating copies. It also biases our work: the English language rules the world, and subject coverage is often awkward and obsolete for specialized readers. It gets all the more constrained as production schedules and cost accountability enter the picture. The world of ideas, I should like to think, is one more of hunting and gathering than of farms and factories; and bibliography is (or ought to be) part of the world of ideas.

My heresy is actually a bit Pentecostal, in that my faith is less in systems that work from the top down, more in dialogue that works from the bottom up, out of respect for the work being cited and the needs of readers. I use OCLC (that bibliographical Wal-Mart), even if it is dull and often mean: Bigmore and Wyman is less useful, but I love it because it was done for readers like me. Citations work best when they serve their readers. The ideal may be “concise but sufficient,” but it helps if citations serve me and my kindred. Citations ought to play up the odd details of written memory that stimulate readers—and these are of course details of physical presentation as well as textual content. APHA members know how the taste and experience that go into producing physical objects are reflected in the experience of reading. The same spirit of sensitivity—the same crystal goblet—needs to go into the dialogue that leads readers to citations. Over the week you’ll no doubt have picked up citations. It’s one reason why you’re here in person, and why you talk to colleagues.

Finally, bad scholarship. (Strike four.) The list of my typos and errors is long. I’m left-handed, a bit dyslexic, a romantic visionary, lazy, in other words much in need of good editors and proofreaders. Also, like too many of us, clueless, even clueless about my cluelessness. And sometimes just plain wrong, as in the story of the first printed musical notes in Jean Gerson’s Collectorium super Magnificat (ca. 1473). Dull stuff to look at: five quads placed in the forme upside-down at various heights on the page, the staff lines to be drawn in by hand. I’ve too often repeated the conventional wisdom that the printer was Conrad Fyner in Esslingen. Instead, it may be the work of Heinrich Eggestein in Strasbourg. I learned about all just recently in the Sotheby auction catalogue of the Kraus inventory. (And so booksellers’ citations are often more reliable than scholarly prose or cataloguing records: and so who is surprised?) Sotheby-Kraus cites a 1950 Gutenberg Jahrbuch piece by Victor Scholderer. Now I remember old Scholderer from the British Museum. Alec Hyatt King, my mentor there; pointed him out to me in the North Library, and most admiringly. But Alec’s own book on music printing says Fyner.

So did Alec even know Scholderer’s piece? Or did he talk to Scholderer, who said he had second thoughts? ISTC (or now IISTC2, or someday IIISTC3 or 4) may settle the question. And it could be that fifty years behind the times is the right place to be. In any event, my cop-out—and my point—is that bibliography (like music making, and like printing) depends on stability, evanescence, and monuments, but also on activities and processes. It works when scholars and compilers know how to talk to readers, both at large and in their specialties; and readers who know when and how to figure out what is really going on. To my thinking, bibliographicalbricolage—tinkering, improvising, tweaking, wits and smarts—is just as important as methodology and system. (Understandably, my life in academia has not always been a happy one.) In music, similar skills are needed by a string quartet when, for instance, the violist has a bad back, the weather outside is unseasonably balmy so as to affect the intonation of the instruments, and I am snoring in the third row. In printing, I live in hopes of someone writing a history of the practice of makeready.

Here endeth my confessional, and I hope nobody is too disgraced. Have no doubts about it, however: for all my ill manners, vulgarity, heresy, and fallibility, I’m absolutely delighted to receive this honor, and most genuinely grateful.

D. W. Krummel 
23 January 2004
Posted with the author’s permission. Copyright remains with the author.