Faà di Bruno, Giovanni Matteo [Horatio, Orazio] 83

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(Lat. fac simile: ‘make similar’).

Name given to a genre of book publishing based on photo-mechanical printing techniques that attempts to recreate the appearance of an original handwritten manuscript or printed edition. Facsimile reproductions employ a wide range of photographic methods and materials. The most sophisticated try to be as faithful to the original as possible by replicating its size, colours, paper, binding and, sometimes, physical condition. It is important to note that facsimile editions are not fakes or forgeries. They are produced, conceived and used as tools for study or investigation by scholars, researchers, teachers and others who might not have access to the original material, although they occasionally become collectable in their own right owing to instances of exceptional craftsmanship or rarity.

The invention of photography and the related development of photo-mechanical printing in Europe during the first half of the 19th century produced the technology that made it possible to make photo-realistic reproductions of original documents on a relatively large scale. This was the first time in the 400-year history of printing that grey-scale images could be passed to paper via the printing press. Using a camera device, an image of the original was first recorded on a photo-sensitive negative and then transferred to a glass or metal plate that had also been treated with a photo-sensitive material. The plate, ‘tanned’ by light and now capable of attracting greasy ink, was then mounted in a press to produce identical prints. The first facsimile copies found in printed books of that time were glued on to pages, tipped-in, or included as loose sheets. Publishing an entire facsimile manuscript, however, was a revolutionary idea; it led to the emergence of a new genre in music publishing: the facsimile edition.

Facsimiles were adopted eagerly in the late 19th century by the learned societies of Europe, which published them for their members and friends. These publications were usually empirical studies aimed at interpreting original texts. Many included dissertations and modern transcriptions of the ancient musical notation. These societies tended to focus their interests on major composers such as Bach, Handel, Mozart and Brahms, or on the study of specific topics such as liturgy, medieval music or literature.

The first notable complete facsimile editions of original manuscripts were Handel's Messiah, produced by the Sacred Harmonic Society of London (London: Vincent Brooks, Day & Son, 1868) and Schubert's Erlkönig, produced by Wilhelm Müller (Berlin: Photo-Lithographisches Institut der Gebrüder Burchard, 1868). The Messiah facsimile was a major achievement in length (278 pages) and format (32 × 26 cm). Both editions are examples of ‘line-cuts’, a term applied to high-contrast images that contain no intermediate grey tones. The Erlkönig facsimile is the first to use a second ink colour (orange), overprinted to illustrate corrections in the original manuscript. Because of the degree of experimentation with various processes and techniques used at the time, it is sometimes difficult to determine the exact techniques employed in some of the earliest examples.

Use of a photo-lithographic process starting in the late 1800s called collotype is easier to identify. Collotypes were made with dichromated gelatine-coated glass plates that produced a screenless half-tone image characterized by a fine random grain structure and relatively high resolution. The Société St-Jean l'Evangelist & Desclée & Cie (Tournai) published a collotype facsimile edition known as Paléographie musicale for the monks of Solesmes. Produced under the direction of André Mocquereau, the first volume, St Gallen 339, appeared in 1889, followed shortly by Einsiedeln 121 and British Library Add. 34209. Other collotype facsimiles editions include early reproductions by the Plainsong and Mediaeval Music Society, London and the Société des Anciens Textes Français, Paris. These early collotypes appear somewhat ‘wooden’ owing to their still relatively narrow tonal range. Collotype plates wore out rapidly or often broke under the pressure applied to them. This technical problem, in addition to the small membership of the sponsoring societies, usually limited press-runs to fewer than 300 copies.

Traditionally, facsimiles have been published to celebrate anniversaries, musical discoveries, and other special occasions. Early examples of this practice include Das Autograph des Oratoriums ‘Jephtha’ (Hamburg: Deutsche Händel-Gesellschaft, 1885) which marked the 200th anniverary of Handel's birth, Beethoven's As-dur Sonate Op.26 (photo-lithography by Albert Frisch, Bonn, 1895), which commemorated the rediscovery of the manuscript, and Bachs Handschrift in zeitlich geordneten Nachbildungen (Leipzig: Bach Gesellschaft, 1895) – an impressive anthology of 142 large-format plates from 34 different compositions spanning the composer's career.

The beginning of the 20th century up to the outbreak of World War I saw the publication of at least 20 major facsimile editions, many of them introduced by leading scholars. These works include Antiphonale Sarisburiense (London, 1901–), Le roman de Fauvel (Paris, 1907), Cent motets … manuscrit Ed.IV.6 de Bamberg (Paris, 1908), Mozarts Requiem (Vienna, 1913), and Henry Bannister's Monumenti vaticani di paleografia musica latina (Leipzig, 1913). Advanced photographic materials with improvements in tonal range and definition made the collotype the process of choice. Mozarts Requiem, produced by the Gesellschaft für Graphische Industrie, was printed in two colours (the main ‘text’ a grey-to-black monochrome, and the ‘third’ foliation in red ink). It was also during this time that publishers and composers began turning to the facsimile process to publish first editions of manuscripts as a less costly alternative to traditional music-score engraving. Among the first companies to do so was Universal Edition of Vienna with publications such as Schoenberg's fair copy facsimile of his second string quartet (score and parts, 1911) and Gurrelieder (full score, 1912).

Following the hiatus caused by World War I, work resumed on facsimiles with such intensity that the decade 1918–28 could be called the ‘golden age’ of the facsimile edition and one that, more than any other, defined the genre. For the first time, publishing houses, either alone or with the aid of specialized photo-lithographic studios, developed systematic publishing schedules that laid out whole series of facsimile works by European composers. The leading publishers included Insel Verlag in Leipzig, Drei Masken Verlag in Munich, and Universal Edition and Wiener Philharmonischer Verlag in Vienna. The names of the lithographic speciality firms Albert Frisch (Berlin) and C.G. Röder (Leipzig) constantly appear in the production credits of these editions.

This period saw the creation of about 50 editions. The first major postwar facsimile, by Frisch, was Drei Briefe Mozarts in Nachbildung, a beautiful reproduction of three autograph letters in the folded format of the original. Five major choral works of Bach appeared; two of them show the trend towards employing multiple colours, the Passio … secundum Evangelistam Matthaeum (Leipzig, 1922), a quasi two-colour collotype executed by Frisch with red ink for the biblical text, and Kantate ‘Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder’ (Leipzig, 1926), a true two-colour collotype by Röder with a light beige ink providing the background ambience of the original manuscript. Beethoven's Sinfonie mit Schluss-Chor über Schillers Ode (Leipzig, 1924), also by Röder, includes a second colour as well, but here the publishing milestone is in its great format, 36 × 40 cm. Editions that are conservative monochromes but ones that stand out for their format and breadth include three complete Wagner operas – Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal – all created by Drei Masken Verlag of Munich between 1922 and 1925. Of the four Beethoven piano sonatas that appeared, the Sonate appassionata (Paris, 1927), by Edition d'Art H. Piazza, is probably the most remarkable for its craftsmanship. The facsimile incorporated a full-colour process in which each ink was first matched with the original and then meticulously printed with multiple press passes, one colour at a time, recreating the original in all its detail (the irregular grain structure of the collotype allows unlimited overprinting without creating moiré patterns). Besides duplicating the original binding and end papers, the facsimile also captured imperfections of the original, such as its waterstains and clipped first page.

Publishers began to pay homage to some composers of the time with facsimiles of their works. Among them was Strauss's Tod und Verklärung (Vienna, 1923), Mahler's Zehnte Symphonie (Berlin/Vienna, 1924), produced in the original loose fascicle format with some irregular page trimming and a collection of eight sketch pages, and Fauré's last composition, Quatuor op.121 (Paris, 1925). In general the works of the 1920s represented the highest standard of book production, and as such, many were ‘luxury’ publications, used by a small and relatively élite audience. But the period also saw the launching of facsimiles of a more utilitarian and practical nature; Martin Breslauer and Bärenreiter were pioneers of lesser-known works from the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Depression and the impact of World War II severely curtailed facsimile publishing from 1930 to 1950. Surprisingly, magnificent facsimile editions were still produced, although they tended to be less extravagant, usually monochromes, and more often than not, the choice of titles was dictated by political considerations. Frisch is responsible for Beethoven's Fünfte Symphonie (1941), Weber's Der Freischütz (1942), and Schubert's Lieder von Goethe (1943), with the latter two containing remarkable colour process work (on coated paper) in the introductory sections. A most fascinating production were Mozart's letters, edited by Erich H. Mueller von Asow and published as Briefe und Aufzeichnungen by Alfred Metzner in Berlin in 1942. The facsimiles (by Frisch) of several hundred letters were produced to accompany Mueller von Asow's critical edition; they were printed on fine paper and painstakingly folded to match the originals. Röder continued to produce beautiful photo-lithography, its best example being Bach's Inventionen und Sinfonien published for C.F. Peters in about 1942. A series of fine but modest facsimiles inspired by Sydney Walton and known as ‘Harrow Replicas’ was published in England during the early 1940s, and issued by W. Heffer & Sons in Cambridge (photo-lithography by Chiswick Press, London).

A watershed for printing technique for a large format facsimile – 40 × 30 cm – is seen in a facsimile edition of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, brought out by Giovanni Treccani degli Alfieri in 1941 and executed in photo-lithography by Emilio Bestetti in Milan. The tone quality was achieved by a fine half-tone screen, a process where the image is represented by thousands of tiny dots. The dot pattern was used for the ‘primary’ ink only (grey-to-black) and positioned diagonally; a second ink – yellowish-brown in tint – provided the necessary colour nuances of the original. The printing was probably done on an offset press (a process that prints by transferring the ink from a flat plate or cylinder to a rubber blanket that deposits the ink on the surface being printed). Though it was a well established process and especially desirable for smaller format reproductions and printed text, the use of offset here, for a large deluxe facsimile, signalled a change in facsimile production. Since collotype plate making was quite tedious, time-consuming and not feasible for large printing runs, it was only a matter of time before facsimile reproductions would follow the printing shift to the photo-offset press.

After 1950, facsimile editions were printed either in collotype or photo-offset; the former was still favoured by the traditional facsimile publishers but the latter slowly gained ground by the 1970s. At the same time, a related genre, the reprint edition, began to appear. These are more economical reproductions, usually produced as line-cuts on the more efficient photo-offset presses, in reduced format and larger editions. From the 1950s to the 1970s, postwar economic growth and the accompanying boom in educational spending fuelled an astounding proliferation of publishing activity. The main reprint firms that include Arnaldo Forni (Bologna), Editions Minkoff (Geneva), Georg Olms (Hildesheim), Gregg (London), Broude Brothers (New York) and Zentralantiquariat (Leipzig) produced thousands of inexpensive editions. The collotype process was still the basis of many deluxe facsimile editions and the choice of several of the specialist firms operating in Stuttgart during the 1950s and 60s and in the Leipzig area almost up to 1990. Outstanding among these collotype editions are Schumann's Jugend-Album Opus 68 (Leipzig: Peters/Röder, 1956), Haydn's Messe B-dur (‘Schöpfungs-Messe’) (Munich: Henle/Schreiber, 1957), and Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (New York: Robert Owen Lehman, 1963 – a four-colour work printed in France).

On the other hand, extremely good results were also being achieved by the 1970s with offset technology and half-tone screening; fine colour examples include Brahms's Symphonie No.4 in E Minor (Zürich: Eulenberg, 1974), Beethoven's Konzert für Violine und Orchester (Graz: Akademische Druck- & Verlagsanstalt, 1979), Richard Wagner's Siegfried Idyll (Zürich: Coeckelbergh, 1983), Stravinsky's L'oiseau de feu (Geneva: Minkoff, 1985), and Mozart's Requiem (Graz: Akademische Druck- & Verlagsanstalt, 1990). This new technology, plus the addition of laser scanners for colour separation, a four-colour process (yellow, magenta, cyan and black), and presses that are able to print these colours on a single pass, has been used in many of the latest generation of facsimiles. The colour nuances of the original have never been captured so completely but because many offset productions have opted for pure white ‘coated’ paper in order to enhance colour hues and reduce moiré patterns, the tactile experience of natural papers, so nicely achieved in many older editions, has been lost. Although the market does not require it yet, these modern offset presses, unlike their flat-plate collotype counterparts, are also capable of press runs of many thousands without sacrificing quality. It is still too early to comment on the significance of new digital technology, such as the CD-ROM and colour laser printing because the full potential of this media has not yet been realized.


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