Songs fit for the son of a Prime Minister

In November 1901, Herbert John Gladstone was presented with Universal Harmony, or The Gentleman and Ladie’s Social Companion, a collection of songs printed in London by J. Newbery in 1745. The book is inscribed “From the Directors & Secretary of the Bath Clubs log. To the Right Hon. Herbert J. Gladstone M.P. their Chairman, on the occasion of his marriage with best wishes for long life & happiness November 1901.” One hundred and thirteen years to the month, the same book found its way to the Lilly Library.

Front cover of Universal Harmony, 1745.
Front cover of Universal Harmony, 1745.
Engraved title page.
Engraved title page.

The engraved title page reads Universal Harmony, or, The Gentleman & Ladie’s Social Companion, consisting of a great Variety of the Best & most Favourite English & Scots Songs, Cantatas &c. &c., With a Curious Design, By way of headpiece, Expressive of the sense of each particular Song, All neatly Engraved on quarto Copper Plates, And set to Music for the Voice, Violin, Hautboy, German & Common Flute, with a Thorough Base for the Organ, harpsichord, spinet, &c. By the Best Masters, The whole calculated to keep People in good Spirits, good health, & good humour, to promote Social Friendship in all Companys and Universal Harmony in every Neighborhood.

Herbert Gladstone was the youngest son of Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. He was a political figure who served as Home Secretary, as well as Governor-General of the Union of South Africa. A dedicated athlete, Gladstone served as the chairman of the Bath Club and the president of the Physical Recreation Society. Perhaps a lesser-known fact is that he was a musician and glee singer, supporting and serving on the council of the Royal College of Music. An 18th century book of songs meant to “keep people in good spirits, good health, & good humour” would have been quite the appropriate wedding gift for Gladstone. Every page is beautifully engraved on copper quarto plates and printed only on the recto side of the page. Many of the pages include an engraved headpiece that represents the song shown beneath it, such as the two plates pictured below.

Plate 49 The Hunting Song in Apollo and Daphne.
Plate 49 The Hunting Song in Apollo and Daphne.
Plate 61 Old Chiron’s Advice to Achilles.

Plate 61 Old Chiron’s Advice to Achilles.

The book is elegantly bound by W. Pratt and contains 129 engraved plates of music, along with an index of songs listed alphabetically. Many of the individuals who set the lyrics to music are listed with the song. Parts for flute are sometimes present, as seen above in The Hunting Song in Apollo and Daphne and below in The Power of Musick and Beauty. The illustrations are filled with little details; the woman in the illustration for The Power of Musick and Beauty is singing from a book of music, while the man and dog are pictured listening attentively. As the lyrics go, “Musick enchants the list’ning Ear, And Beauty charms the Eye.”

Plate 9 The Power of Musick and Beauty.
Plate 9 The Power of Musick and Beauty.

To see the full record for Universal Harmony, visit IUCAT. Call Number: M1613.3.U55 1745

Reference: H. C. G. Matthew, ‘Gladstone, Herbert John, Viscount Gladstone (1854–1930)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2010 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/33417, accessed 1 Dec 2014]

Photography by Zach Downey.

Author- Anne Haines

Web Content Specialist in the Discovery & User Experience Department, IU Libraries. I've spoken at events including edUi, Confab Central, Confab Higher Ed, IOLUG, ILF, the IU Libraries' Digital Library Brown Bag series, and the Libraries' In-House Institute. You can find me hanging out at the intersection of content strategy and librarianship, singing a doo-wop song under the streetlight. Follow me on Twitter: @annehaines