The Annotated Catalogue of Chopin’s First Editions is the fruit of an ongoing research initiative which began in 1998 with financial support from The Leverhulme Trust. Its chief goal was to produce an inventory of the first editions of Fryderyk Chopin’s music held by the principal European and American libraries, and to analyse the contents of those editions in detail. At the start of the project we anticipated a total corpus of about 2,000 scores, but it soon emerged that a much larger quantity existed. Indeed, the sixty-three institutions and additional private collections that have been targeted in this enterprise hold some 5,300[1] copies – representing approximately 1,600 distinct impressions – most of which could plausibly be described as ‘Chopin first editions’ in one sense. The meaning of ‘first’ needs to be qualified, however: as the Historical overview explains, multiple impressions of many scores were successively brought out, thus producing a vast quantity of ‘first editions’ which vary in content and relative significance. Numerous difficulties arise in identifying and classifying this material, requiring the systematic application of well-defined criteria so that the distinctive features and status of each impression can be determined and assessed.[2] All of this is the aim of the Annotated Catalogue, which focuses on three broad categories of source material:

  • first editions released during Chopin’s lifetime
  • posthumous first editions published between 1850 and 1878
  • successive reprints of these editions until their eventual disappearance from the market.

Newly engraved versions bearing the original plate numbers are also included, principally because of difficulties in identifying them as opposed to their progenitor ‘first editions’ (and vice versa). Unauthorised reprints of the original editions, produced between 1832 and 1878 in various European countries as well as America,[3] do not appear here, given their somewhat marginal importance compared with editions whose publication was overseen by Chopin himself. Similarly, we have not catalogued editions with new plate numbers dating from 1850 onwards, nor the first editions of works discovered after 1878,[4] which tend to be easily identifiable and readily accessible.[5]

The online version of the Annotated Catalogue is divided into three main parts: Background, Catalogue and Appendices. Reference material is also provided. The first of these parts comprises a lengthy Historical overview, which provides essential information about the publication history of Chopin’s music within each of the countries concerned, as well as pertinent observations about music publishing during the period. Among other things, we discuss the legal contexts surrounding Chopin’s first editions, their general characteristics and the publishers that brought them out. The Background section includes another lengthy section called Explaining the Annotated Catalogue, where we present our classificatory criteria, descriptive method, approaches to cross-referencing and policies on quasi-facsimile transcription as employed throughout the catalogue proper. Information is also provided about how editions have been dated.

The ensuing Catalogue forms the core of AC Online and itself has four main sections, along with a general list of All works:

Five Appendices focus on series title pages and publishers’ advertisements, in addition to presenting an index of libraries and private collections in which each institution’s or collector’s Chopin first editions are classified by library/collection siglum and edition/impression code. There is also a list of uncatalogued worksAppendix V includes digital images of the title pages and extracts of publishers’ advertisements which to date have not been located on external websites. The Reference material includes lists of List of abbreviations and of publishers' sigla, a glossary of key terms, and a bibliography

Although our research has been as comprehensive and rigorous as possible, any attempt to catalogue all extant copies of Chopin’s first editions will inevitably fall short of its goal. Not only have we been unable to visit every library in the world, but, for obvious reasons, we have not had access to all of the private collections where relevant scores might be found.[6] Copies not included in this catalogue will undoubtedly come to light one by one, among them previously unknown impressions which could prompt an altogether different interpretation of a given filiation chain or the interrelationships between multiple editions of a particular work. But even if some of the content within the Annotated Catalogue is superseded in due course, it is our hope that the research as a whole will encourage a richer understanding and awareness of the legacy in notation and sound that the music of Chopin has inspired ever since its composition and earliest incarnations on the printed page.

Christophe Grabowski
John Rink

[1] This figure is only the tip of the iceberg, given that a relatively small proportion of the scores produced during the period will have survived in the collections of libraries and private individuals. It is impossible to define a precise figure for the number of copies of Chopin first editions that were prepared for the market and actually sold, but it could be well over twenty times the sum total encountered in our research.

[2] By attaching new significance to changes within the music text and thus by studying successive modifications in order to trace a given edition’s evolution, this catalogue takes a novel approach to musical philology. In this respect it goes a good deal further than past studies of the Chopin first editions, among them Breitner and Leibnitz 1986, Chomiński and Turło 1990, and Platzman 2003. (The author-date reference system is used throughout this resource; full publication details are given in the Bibliography.)

With regard to the holdings of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, it has been neither necessary nor desirable to achieve a degree of detail corresponding to that of the catalogue of Breitner and Leibnitz described above. In order to avoid duplicating their volume, only those copies held by A-Wn which either can be found nowhere else or are otherwise rare have been included in this catalogue. Therefore readers should not necessarily assume by a lack of reference to A-Wn in the ‘Copies’ section of individual catalogue entries that this library does not hold the scores in question.

In other words, cross-referencing between the extant bibliographic sources is required to gain full knowledge of the location of relevant exemplars. It should be noted, however, that in addition to some of the Chopin scores in Hoboken’s former collection (a significant proportion of which is also held by A-Wgm), A-Wn possesses its own Chopin first editions; these are fully documented in this volume as they lie beyond the purview of Breitner and Leibnitz’s catalogue.

[3] An incomplete list of these editions appears in Chomiński and Turło 1990: 272, 273, 325 & 326.

[4] Summary information about these editions is given in Appendix IV.

[5] Virtually all of Chopin’s works were published in arrangements for piano four hands during the nineteenth century. These were particularly abundant in the German states and existed in more limited quantities in England, whereas in France only a handful of such editions appeared on the market. Given that arrangements of this sort did not emanate from Chopin himself, they do not feature in our catalogue, nor the solo piano version of Op. 3 prepared by Moscheles. The only arrangements represented here are those for piano and flute of Op. 3; for piano, flute and cello of Op. 8; and for piano and violin of Opp. 3 & 65 and the Grand Duo Concertant. The rationale behind their inclusion is that the music text of certain passages of original piano, cello and/or violin parts contains relevant corrections.

[6] The relative inaccessibility of private collections has led to the selective cataloguing of the scores owned by Jan Ekier (partially available at PL-Wnifc in the form of photographic negatives), Robert Commagère, and Ewa & Jeremiusz Glensk. From the collection of Auguste Franchomme (fully inventoried in Eigeldinger 2006: 283–288) we have been able to include the scores currently in the possession of the descendants of Germaine Mounier and the part which formerly belonged to Laurent Pénicaud, presently held by PL-Wnifc. Selective cataloguing has also been necessary for logistical or other reasons at a number of libraries and publishers’ archives, i.e. AUS-CAnl, CH-Bu, CH-Zz, D-MZsch, GB-Gu, GB-LEbc, GB-SHE, I-Mc, I-Rce, IRL-Dam, IRL-Dtc, RUS-SPsc, US-LAum and US-NH. Our general approach in such cases has been to catalogue only those exemplars of an edition or impression which would otherwise be excluded from this volume, although occasionally a score from these collections has been listed even when the details of other copies are also provided, usually because it has distinctive physical or other features.