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(MUSIC.) William Billings. Music in Miniature, Containing a Collection of Psalm Tunes of Various Metres. 32 engraved pages. Small 8vo, contemporary plain wrappers; light toning and minimal wear to contents; uncut; early owner's signature on front wrapper. Boston, 1779
William Billings (1746-1800) was a Boston music teacher and the first American composer to issue a volume of his own music. He issued 6 compilations of sacred music from 1770 to 1794. Music in Miniature is the first of two which he published on his own press; Benjamin Johnston was the engraver. It contains 74 compositions for 4 voices, 63 of them written by Billings, and 31 of them making their first appearance. Although Billings was well-regarded as a composer, music was not a full-time profession in 18th-century New England. He supplemented his income with work as a tanner, street-cleaner, and hog reeve. The signature on the wrapper reads "Joshua Hearsey's Book"; this was probably the Joshua Hersey or Hearsey (1732-1807) whose home still stands in Hingham, MA. Britton & Lowens, American Sacred Music Imprints 105; Evans 16205; Sabin 5416. 5 copies in ESTC. A nicely preserved and unsophisticated example of an important rarity.
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