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Books of Instruction. 0549: Charlotte Finch, The Gamut and Time-Table in Verse

Author: Finch, Charlotte
Title: The gamut and time-table in verse. For the instruction of children. By C. Finch. Embellished with twelve illustrative coloured engravings
Cat. Number: 0549
Date: No date but c.1825
1st Edition:
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: Dean and Munday, Threadneedle-Street
Price: 1s
Pages: 1 vol., 35pp.
Size: 16 x 9.5 cm
Illustrations: Frontispiece plus 11 further hand-coloured engravings, and 5 full-pages of musical scores

Images of all pages of this book

Page 004 of item 0549

Introductory essay

The Gamut and Time-Table is a delight to look at. Its wood engravings are neatly hand-coloured, and the verse itself, nicely set out, alternates with diagrams showing musical clefs, notes and so on. The verses allude to these diagrams, and are supposed to teach the reader the gamut, that is to say the identity of each note on the bass then the treble clef, and the time-table, which is to say the function of the breve, semibreve, crotchet, quaver and so on.

But however attractive the illustrations, and however ingenious the verse (and it must have been a challenge getting 'demisemiquavers' into a scanning line: p.35), the actual usefulness of The Gamut must be questionable. The verse form is a remarkably labourious way of teaching fairly simple lessons, and the illustrations can surely not have been included on the basis of their utility. The Gamut represents either the fullest expression of the idea that lessons presented in an attractive form - in cheerful verse, with attractive images - will be all the easier to absorb. Or it is a book whose ostensible purpose has been superseded by a determination to be attractive and witty, clever and amusing. If we accept that the book was designed to be appealing rather than useful, The Gamut is testimony to a certain kind of commodification of children's literature. No longer was a children's book valued as it educated its reader. Rather the books were appraised as objects, and valued, by both adults and children perhaps, for their physical beauty. If their text did form part of their appeal, what was valued was not what it could teach, but how neat and how sparkling it was.

Dean and Munday, who published The Gamut, were operating from Threadneedle Street in London from 1811 until 1847 (Brown 1982: 55). The Gamut was probably published somewhere in the middle of this range. Curiously, the British Library possesses another version of the title, the same in all respects, save that it was published by A. K. Newman and Co. Newman's firm would have been a competitor of Dean and Munday, and was operating for almost exactly the same span of years. How the title came to be transferred from one company to the other is an open question. A third version, using the same text and similar images, was published by Dean and Co. of Threadneedle Street sometime later - perhaps 1850? It appeared in a larger format, with the musical notation alongside the text and pictures, rather than on separate pages, and the illustrations had been updated to reflect mid-Victorian fashions.

Brown, Philip A. H., London Publishers and Printers, c.1800-1870, London: British Library, 1982