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Purcell’s Bonduca 1842 Musical Antiquarian Society Publication Project

July 23, 2019

The aim of this project is to secure funding to produce a high quality digital version of the Musical Antiquarian Society 1842 edition of Purcell’s opera Bonduca. This is just the first step in a project to publish high quality digital editions of significant nineteenth-century editions of Purcell’s music, specifically the c. 1850 Novello edition of Purcell’s complete sacred works.

Henry Purcell’s Bonduca was written and first performed in 1695, the year in which Purcell died. The opera tells the story of the British Queen Bonduca, also know as Boudicca, and is based on the 1619 play The Tragedy of Bonduca by Beaumont and Fletcher.

Bonduca was published by the Musical Antiquarian Society in 1842 in a particularly beautiful edition. The publication is a substantial one on which they obviously spent much effort, and contains more than the score of the opera. This is actually the first complete edition of the opera as the music had never before previously been published in full.

The intention is to make the digital edition available for free under an open source licence.

So what is in the 1842 Musical Antiquarian Society edition?

The main contents are:

An Introduction, by Edward F Rimbault, pages 1-3. Rimbault was the secretary of the Musical Antiquarian Society and was also the organist of the Swiss church, London.

An Historical Sketch of The History of Dramatic Music in England to the Death of Purcell, pages 4-17, also by Rimbault. This is very thorough treatment of the subject and is well researched and referenced. It begins in the Middle Ages and ends of course in 1695, the year of Purcell’s death.

Then there is the complete text of the play The Tragedy of Bonduca by Beaumont & Fletcher, pages 19-35. I imagine for most people nowadays this is quite a difficult read.

This is followed by the score of the opera Bonduca by Henry Purcell, pages 1-27. This is a full score.

Finally there is an appendix, pages 28-32, which presumably given the way it is notated, is written for string orchestra. The pieces are 2 hornpipes, 3 airs and a minuet.

The publication is in a large format, measuring 29cm x 40cm and in addition to the contents outlined above includes a beautifully engraved frontispiece and title page.

The main steps in this project are:

1. unpicking the edition from its modern binding and making a high quality digital copy

2. commissioning an essay about the work and the 1842 edition

3. making the digital edition available as a free download under an open source licence on this website and on other sites where documents can be freely distributed

4. publicising the publication of the digital edition.

The project will therefore add value to the 1842 Musical Antiquarian Society edition and make it freely available to students and professional scholars. A list of supporters will be included in the new edition. 

You can support this project using Paypal.  Paypal payments can be direct to Theory of Music Ltd, email address using the reference Purcell.

More details about the 1842 Musical Antiquarian Society publication are available through this link to a report of a meeting of the Society,

If you have any questions about this project please contact me using the form below.  An FAQ is here  

Barry Mitchell

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