Restoration Proofreading: Sloppy Engraving

sloppy engraving

Sometimes Most of the Restoration is Correcting Engraving

Sometimes, people ask me what I mean by “restoration.” What do you do, actually, to accomplish it? What’s it for, why is it good, who needs it? I explain in some detail on my website’s Music Restoration page, but in this post I will show you one of the steps in the process. This is step where a proofreader (not me!) goes through what I have produced in a full size printed proof and checks for problems I missed and engraver errors.

American publishers first sent their hand-written music by boat to Europe, often to Germany or Holland, for the engraving on metal plates. When done, the plates would be returned to America for mounting on the presses and printing the music. The earlier plates and those from certain publishers are well-known for errors, some simple and some serious. They range from missing clefs to incorrect key signatures to wrong notes. Plates were engraved by hand and errors were always a part of their process. Tiny problems would be left in because the organist was sure to correct them and the time to repeat the engraving was deemed impractical. Sloppiness was indeed difficult, costly, and time consuming to correct!

Below are the notes I got from the proofreader on a particulary sloppy piece. If you were to download this piece from one of the “free” websites, you would see all of this in its sloppy glory. If you buy my restored music, all of this will be set to right!

  • p2, s2, m4, b3, lh, G overlaps F line
  • p2, s2, m4, b3, fermata missing
  • p2, s1, m3, b3, in pedal, accidental should be a natural
  • p2, s2, m1, b2, pedal accidental needed near E
  • p3, s1, m4, “of” should be “off”
  • p4, s1, m3, rh, F should be quarter note
  • p5, s3, m4, lhm b4, G should be A
  • p6, s1, m3, b3, lh, mid C ledger incomplete
  • p6, s2, m3, rh, b1, dot missing on D
  • p 7, s3, m1, rh, b1, Bs and Es missing naturals!
  • p11, s1, m1, lh, b2&4, A should be B flat
  • p11, s2, m1, lh, b2, A should be B flat
  • p11, s2, m3, lh, b4, A should be B natural
  • p11, s4, m6, b1, pedal A should be B flat
    (This caused the piece to end with big B flat chords in the manuals and a juicy A natural in the pedal! This is the ultimate sloppiness from a piece from 1867: not checking the very last ff chord!)
  • and there were plenty more!

My hat’s off to proofreaders! If you have a compulsive streak, this job is for you! Does anyone remember Walter Ehret? He was a proofreader I was privileged to meet a long, long time ago. He went on to work as an arranger and composer but he did not forget the value of his old job.

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