Category Archives: Sheet Music Covers

Comments on some special, funny or beautiful covers

How Absurd

'Pepper Pot' sheet music cover illustration,
Pepper Pot‘, a novelty dance by Harold Ivers. Published by Witmark, M. & Sons (New York, 1913) and illustrated by André De TaKacs.

Rather absurd,  I mumbled while surfing the net recently. I was left perplexed by how our blog Images Musicales Stories leaves ludicrous traces on the global network. I want to tell you about it. But first, a pair of absurd music illustrations, as a warm-up.

'Five O'Clock' sheet music by Maurice Ravel
Five O’Clock‘, Maurice Ravel’s fox trot, published by A. Durand & Fils (Paris, 1925) and illustrated by R. Vallet.
Five O’Clock‘, Maurice Ravel’s fox trot, also published by A. Durand & Fils (Paris). Copyright is 1925 but the illustration from Maurice Le Palud is dated 1931.

A few years ago we fabricated a pastiche to illustrate a post on the sheet music covers created by René Magritte. Yes, excessively photoshopped from an original Magritte cover.

A pictorial farce accompanying our previous article (2016) on the illustrative work by René Magritte.

The image was a tongue-in-cheek remark on the surrealistic potentials of Magritte’s cover for Prière à mon Ange. You will understand our surprise that this little joke was copied to an Italian website as if it was the work of René Magritte himself!
How surreal.

Screenshot (April 11th, 2020) of an Italian website discussing and showing Magritte’s publicitary designs.

Next is an even more absurd story. In 2014 we published an article on the life and work of Wolfgang Ortmann. The post was documented with more than a dozen high-resolution scans of our sheet music collection. Alas, at the time we didn’t feel the need to digitally stamp these images. A ‘rascal’ based in New Zealand copied our images, photoshopped the most ‘offensive’ tears and wrinkles, and felt the commercial urge to bundle them in a calendar. A CALENDAR!

We couldn’t resist ordering such a calendar from New Zealand. Only 3 available items left! For $12,99 plus shipping costs it was ours.And now we have our beautiful Ortmann covers —which we patiently collected over many years, documented and cared for, and which travelled electronically to the other side of the world— printed on ordinary A4 paper and bundled in a cheap plastic ring on our desk. Look what they’ve done to my song Ma?

Far from the Madding Carnival

Valse Carnaval‘ composed by Sandor Laszlo, published by Elkan & Schildknecht (Stockholm, 1920) and illustrated by Tornborg.

A festive couple finds an intimate moment far from what we imagine to be a frenzied carnival parade or costume ball. The Swedish illustrator Tornborg (who’s life we were unable to trace…) succeeded in capturing this subtle moment with a ‘simple‘ drawing.
Here are a few more carnivalesque sheet music covers that are at odds with the obligatory exuberance of carnival parties. If not very similar to our intro-cover, they at least share the same atmosphere of privateness…

Karneval‘ a fox-trot composed by Einar Grönvall and published by Abr. Lundquists Musikförlag (Stockholm, s.d.). Illustration signed with J C monogram and the year 1913.
The Carnival‘ by Osborne Roberts. Published by Anton J. Benjamin in Berlin (1910). Illustration by Hookham.
'Una noche de garufa', a tango by Eduardo Arolas. Published by C. M. Roehr (Berlin, s.d.) and illustrated by Louis Oppenheim.
Una noche de garufa‘, tango by Eduardo Arolas. Published by C. M. Roehr (Berlin, s.d.) and illustrated by Louis Oppenheim.
Die Nacht war schwül…‘ a Shimmy-Lied by Sigmund Romberg. Published by Wiener Bohème Verlag (Wien, 1924). Illustrator is unknown.

The carnival is not yet over. It is still too early to go home. So let us enjoy —far from the noisy and madding crowds— a courting pantomime between Pierrette and Columbine, and an exquisite dance between her and Harlequin…


More on Alice Guy’s fantastical short film here.

Silver Sleigh Bells

'Silver Sleigh Bells' by E. T. Paull.
Silver Sleigh Bells‘ by E. T. Paull, published by E. T. Paull Music Co (New York, 1906). Lithograph A. Hoen & Co.

All aboard! Here is your fast ride to the Christmas excitement. Prepare for throngs of frenzied shoppers, glühwein, noisy Santas and their tiresome ho ho’s.
This week it is composer-businessman E. T. Paull who sets the start of our story. Edward Paull (1858-1924) was an American publisher who master-minded a perfect mix of image and music. An attractive and dramatic cover is the best way to market your music, he must have thought. On the other hand, he also wanted his compositions to tell stories, and to that purpose he even added explanatory notes inside the sheet music!

Explanatory text to the 'Silver Sleigh Bells'.
Explanatory‘ – instructive text on how the music should be interpreted, and what narrative it expresses (p.2 of the ‘Silver Sleigh Bells’ sheet music).

Sheet music from E. T. Paull has long been considered as the crème de la crème amongst US collectors, not in the least because Paull boasted on using the five colour process of his lithographers A. Hoen & Company. But ink transfer from the stone to the paper is a delicate process. It can go wrong.

A lithographic misprint of 'Silver Sleigh Bells'
Two editions of ‘Silver Sleigh Bells’. The one on the right shows the horses and the sleighs as a big dark blob. A lithographic misprint.

I am not a connoisseur of E. T. Paull’s work. That’s why I refer to interesting sites on the subject at the end of this post.

Unfortunately, the topic of Christmas has inspired many illustrators and publishers to dull and bland covers. However, some designers went out of their way to avoid stereotypes and succeeded in creating striking cover illustrations. For your entertainment and fine taste, we selected some of these ‘original’ sheet music. Consider it your Christmas gift from Images Musicales.
Happy Christmas and have a good time!

Smaal sheet music illustrated by Punch
Noël de Pierrot et de Colombine‘ by Léo Lelièvre. Published by Henri Pascal (Paris, s.d.) and illustrated by Punch.
Illustration of a 1926 sheet music cover attributed to Isaac Grünewald.
Juleljus (Julsång)’ by Gösta Jahn and Zacharias Topelius. Published by Elkan & Schildknecht, Emil Carelius (Stockholm, 1926). Illustration attributed to Isaac Grünewald.
Sheet Music cover 'Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht ; Weihnachten' by Fritz Kirchner
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht ; Weihnachten‘ by Fritz Kirchner. Published by Emil Hunger (Berlin, s.d.). Illustrator unknown.
Sheet music 'Der Weihnachtsengel' illustrated by Linge.
Der Weihnachtsengel‘ by Richard Krentzlin. Published by Birnbach (Berlin, 1920). Illustration by Linge.

Further reading: a few pages on the net are dedicated to the life and work of E. T. Paull, amongst others at the Parlor Songs Academy and on ‘Perfessor’ Bills website.
To see more covers of E. T. Paull, visit the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection.

Not enough Christmas covers? Look here in our sheet music collection.