When music engraving was engraved

For some time, I’ve wanted to learn to use a sextant. I’m not a real sailor; I don’t have any real practical application for it, but I’m often intrigued by the old ways of doing things. I prefer to play old guitars through tube amplifiers, I share my a bit of dad’s interests in vintage cars and film cameras, and I am drawn to all matter of anachronistic hardware.

Similarly I am fascinated by thought of how sheet music was made before Finale. Well, I know I how I made it – with a pencil or pen, and sometimes with scissors and tape or glue. But I’m thinking of how music was engraved. If you’ve never seen Anneliese Bente’s 1997 “Sharp as a Tack” video, about how G. Henle used to create their Urtext editions, check it out at:


You may notice on the same page that G. Henle also offers their old engraving plates for sale through their dealers. This fact was actually the impetus for today’s blog – one of my coworkers brought one of these plates to work:

Holding this plate in my hands I marvel at the craftsmanship involved in using Iron Age tools to create such a work of art. If mastering the chisel wasn’t enough, keep in mind you had to do it all in reverse. It’s a bit humbling.

I’m reminded of my own pre-computer struggles with a typewriter in an effort to produce even a few perfect pages of text; not a particularly fond nor nostalgic memory. While I may have admiration for some aspects of the past, I’m not interested in giving up my computer for a typewriter and some chisels. (Have I mentioned my dependence on spell-checking software?)

But the plate, like the resulting engraving, is beautiful. Are you interested in owning one? More details are available at: http://www.jwpepper.com/10061175.item

Am I buying one? Well, no. I’m saving up for a sextant. And a vintage tube strobe tuner.

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