Music book in Jane Austen’s hand

This is one of two books of manuscript music in Jane Austen’s hand that is held in the Museum collection – one each for vocal and keyboard music. Jane is believed to have copied them out between 1790 and 1810, although she continued to use them in later life.

In the eighteenth century, sheet music was expensive to buy. Instead, it was common for young ladies to borrow or hire their favourite music and to copy it out into a pre-ruled music book, like this.

The book is an oblong folio with a full calf binding, produced by the firm of Longman and Broderip, No. 26 Cheapside and No. 13 Haymarket.

The title page features the publisher’s engraving of a cherub holding a blank label; this label has been completed in ink with the words “Juvenile Songs & Lessons,” and below this, in smaller writing and what seems to be a different hand, “for young beginners who don’t know enough to practise.”

The page is open at an arrangement of Nos Galan, or ‘New Year’s Eve’, a traditional Welsh winter carol. It is instantly recognisable as Deck the Halls – albeit with a few unexpected twists and turns. It is a bright, warming melody that suits cold weather and dark evenings…

If you want to play it yourself, or see more pages, you can view images of the full music book here 📖

Or listen to an extract here! 🎧