Category Archives: Collecting

Recto Verso De Luxe

'Poèmes chantées', music by Charpentier
Poèmes chantés‘, music by Gustave Charpentier (Tellier, Paris, s.d., illustrated by George Rochegrosse)

Often the back cover of sheet music shows publicity or part of the publisher’s music catalogue. It is seldom blank. But it is much rarer that the back cover (verso) is illustrated to form a whole with the front. Something that today is common on e.g. book wrappers. In our collection of sheet music we found only six of such ‘full covers’. These were probably luxury editions as we can imagine the cost of making such large lithographic plates. We happily share these ‘specials’ with you.

'Chansons frêles'
Chansons frêles‘ composed by André Fijan (Ricordi, Paris, s.d., illustrator unknown)
'Renouveau', composed by Augusta Holmes
Renouveau‘ composed by Augusta Holmes (Ricordi, Paris, 1894, illustrated by Alfredo Montalti)
'l'Elégant - quadrille: Aux dames de France', music by Casquil, dance by E. Louis (publisher unknown, s.d., illustration signed E.D. monogram)
l’Elégant – quadrille: Aux dames de France‘, music by Casquil, dance by E. Louis (publisher unknown, s.d., illustration signed E.D. monogram)
''t Is Feest in het land...', music by P. Standaart (Vlieger, Rotterdam, s.d., illustrated by Hendrik van Kesteren) Click image to enlarge
‘t Is Feest in het land…‘, music by P. Standaart (Vlieger, Rotterdam, s.d., illustrated by Hendrik van Kesteren)
'Klingende Illustrierde', music by various composers (Curtius, Berlin, 1943, illustrated by Kurt Hilscher) Click image to enlarge
Klingende Illustrierte‘, music by various composers (Curtius, Berlin, 1943, illustrated by Kurt Hilscher)

A Picture (or Two) is Worth a Thousand Words

Previously we told the story about double items in our illustrated sheet music collection. In that post we showed how publishers boldly used lithoshopping. What follows are more images that leave us slightly puzzled (and amused) as to the how and why of certain changes. Which image came first? Was the modification in print inspired by a surge of creativity? Who ordered the change? Is the result an improvement or a pictorial disaster?

But can you spot all the differences? Ready, steady, go!

Sphinx?‘, a mysterious woman or statue. The 1906 edition (right) accentuates the hypnotic stare or music by Francis Poppy. Illustration by H. Viollet-Douhin.


Toboggan‘, lithographed by L. Marci (Brussels, 1907). The adult version (on the left) and the children’s version (right) tried to target different audiences.


‘Der letzte Walzer‘, illustrated by W. Ortmann (1920). In the American version on the right the lady has lost her colour and subtlety.


La Valse Chaloupée‘ from the Moulin Rouge revue in 1908. On the right the dancers Max Dearly and Mistinguett are prominently in the picture. On the left it is Paul Dalbret‘s turn to make his partner swoon. Both images by Léon Pousthomis.


Epous’ là‘ (Marry Her), the 1923 Parisian revue. The pointing arrows in the right version to indicate which star interprets the song, was probably too much of a hassle with later reprints. The original idea was abandoned (left) in favour of an inappropriate lacework.


For this polka the dangerous game on the banister (left) was wilfully (?) censored on the right. Better safe than sorry.


The beautiful drawing by Swedish illustrator and caricaturist Nils Melander for the world-wide success ‘The Match Parade‘ has largely been respected in the French version (right) save for some details and texts.


The version of ‘Les Bouquets‘ (s.d.) on the right is a complete makeover of the drawing of poster designer Robert Gazay. No signature on the second one, so maybe a ‘lesser’ artist was hired a couple of years later to design a more contemporary variation of the cover.


Ell’ s’était fait couper les cheveux‘, the ode to the bob haircut, immortalised by Choppy in 1924. While publisher Maillochon payed the printer the cost of at least 5 colours for the version on the right, only 3 colours were necessary to achieve the same catchy effect on the left. In fact I do prefer the left one. 


The ‘Sérénade Divine‘ by Pierrot on the left might look divine, but the lady on the right is probably in for a ghostly surprise when she opens her eyes… Published by Louis Aerts in 1922.


Hab’ ein blaues Himmelbett!‘ – The man on the left, luring ladies with his blue canopy bed, resembles the Austrian operetta tenor Hubert Marischka. For the Italian version of the famous song of Léhar’s Frasquita on the right, illustrator von Ferenchich had to re-engineer his drawing with… another head.  (1922)


Czech sheet music cover variations (1919, illustrator unknown): at least the dog doesn’t seem to be surprised by the child’s change in hair dress.


Ninette!‘, the naughty version on the right (rattling teacups!) was probably to attract the more daring monsieurs. Clérice must have had a laugh redrawing this collector item in the stone (published by H. Christiné, Paris, 1909)

Pas de Quatre, Pas de Doubles

Usually a collector avoids double or triple items. But sometimes they lead to discoveries. Did you know for example that in the 19th-century print shop it was common practice to apply what we could call lithoshopping on the limestone plate? Look for yourself.

Two almost identical covers for the ‘Pas de Quatre‘ dance by Meyer Lutz.
Added smiles on the faces of the dancers surely had to attract more customers and increase sales.

In fact, some publishers shamelessly recreated on the stone almost identical copies of the covers originally published in another country.

It appears that the French edition on the right is almost identical to the British one (left), after the image is shown mirrored.

And then again, one Pas de Quatre is not the other Pas de Quatre, or is it?

'Pas de Quatre' sheet music covers from