Classificatory criteria

Classification of the first editions has been undertaken on the basis of the criteria defined below. Compositions published with opus numbers during Chopin’s lifetime are catalogued in ascending numerical order (i.e. Op. 1, Op. 2, etc.),[1] as is the case for works released posthumously with opus numbers, i.e. Opp. 66–74. A corresponding structure applies respectively to works published without opus numbers prior to Chopin’s death in 1849,[2] and posthumous editions without opus numbers.[3] The latter two categories are organised alphabetically, not chrono­logically. 

Within the entries for works released in multiple ‘simultaneous’ editions, French editions generally ap­pear first, followed by ‘German’ editions (i.e. those published in the German states) and then English edi­tions. Although this order does not necessarily correspond to relevant deposit or publication sequences, any resultant anomalies tend to be insignifi­cant – at most a matter of several weeks – and thus do not distort the overall picture that emerges.[4] 

This structure lends itself to the bulk of Chopin’s music though not to the seven works for which Polish or Italian editions have been catalogued. In the entries under Opp. 1, 5 & 74, the Polish editions are de­scribed first, likewise the Italian edition of Hexameron (owing to its chronological precedence – see below), whereas for Opp. 4 & 43 and the Variations on a German National Air the Italian editions appear last. Other exceptions arise from the fact that certain scores were published many years after the true ‘first edition(s)’. For example, the English first editions of Op. 65, the Mazurka dedicated to Emile Gaillard and many of the posthumous works have not been catalogued because they appeared on the market significantly later than their counterparts. In the case of the Polonaise in G minor, the Mazurkas in G major, B- major and D major, the Waltz in E minor and the Lento con gran espressione, only the Polish first edition has been taken into account, given that the French, German and English editions followed after an extended interval that in some instances stretched into the twentieth century. Similar factors explain why only two editions – Polish and German – have been catalogued for the Mazurka in C major, the Polonaises in G# minor and G- major,[5] and the Waltz in E minor. 

For those compositions where lengthy gaps separated the editions released in different countries, the order in which the various editions are presented here corresponds to that of actual publication. The pieces in question include Opp. 1, 2, 3 & 5, Hexameron, and a number of works brought out posthumously (Deux Valses Mélancoliques (Op. 70 No. 2, Op. 69 No. 2), Op. 71 No. 2, Op. 74). Exceptionally, two or even three ‘first editions’ of certain works – namely Opp. 1–3, 64 & 66 and the Deux Valses Mélancoliques – were produced in a single country, and for the sake of consolidation we have grouped in chronological order all publications of the same national provenance even when one might have been released after certain ‘foreign’ editions catalogued below it (e.g. 1–1-HO, 2–1-SC, 3–1-Sm). 

The sheer volume of documentation catalogued in this online resource has required extensive consideration about whether cer­tain exemplars constitute cognate or distinct impressions. Given that most scores are unique in one or more respects, the most precise approach would be to adopt criteria for common classification which are so exacting that a copy with even the slightest difference from its counterparts would be treated sepa­rately. This would however lead to a philologically untenable, not to mention cumbersome plethora of cate­gories from which patterns and relationships could be inferred only with difficulty. After prolonged reflec­tion, we have therefore decided to classify together those scores with the following common charac­teristics: 

  1. identical text on the title page;
  2. identical physical contents;
  3. identical means of production;
  4. identical music text and extra-musical elements such as caption titles, sub-captions, footlines, etc. 

These criteria have been slightly relaxed in the four cases described below: 

  • Defective copies lacking a title page and possibly additional pages have been classified with analogous scores pos­sessing the absent material but only when they correspond in every other particular (e.g. 6–1a-Sm, 9–1d-BR, 15–1c-W, 17–1b-W).
  • Copies which originally had a blank final leaf that no longer exists (for example, because a given score was bound in a volume without it) or which may have incorporated such a leaf at an earlier or later stage of production (it is usually impossible to determine publication sequences of this sort) have been classi­fied with copies containing the final leaf, but again only when they are otherwise identical (e.g. 10/7-12–1-KI, 19–1-PR, 19–1-PE, 22–1a-B&H, HEX–1-HAt).
  • Copies of collective publications such as albums which differ in content have been classified together if they contain the same version of the Chopin piece in question (e.g. 32/1–1a-Sam, 32/2–1-Sam, MFM–1-E). An exception has been made for the volume of Posthumous Works published by J. Meissonnier fils: alt­hough most copies have one or more unique features, they appear in a joint catalogue entry but with de­tailed comments on their distinctive aspects (see Posth–1-MEIf).
  • Copies which are identical except for the colour of ink used to reproduce their title pages have been cata­logued to­gether (e.g. 44–1a-ME) except for the Kistner editions of Opp. 6 & 7, which have TPs in sepia and thus almost cer­tainly pre-date similar copies. 

Factors which have not influenced the grouping of scores include the presence or absence of original wrappers and covers, discrepancies between corresponding catalogue extracts, publishers’ stamps on title pages, and minor differences between the decorative elements on TPs (some of which resulted from insuffi­cient or excessive ink on the plates during printing, while other discrepancies can be found between errors in earlier impressions and corrected versions in later ones). Every score had a wrapper or cover when originally published; however, many of these were lost or removed at a later date (as noted in the ‘Historical over­view’), and thus it would make little sense to distinguish systematically between copies which retain them and counterparts which do not. Thus, provided they are otherwise identical as defined above, corresponding copies have been grouped within the same catalogue entry whether or not their wrappers/covers still exist, even when the latter significantly differ in content or colour (e.g. 38–1a-B&H, 47–1a-Sm, 52–1-B&H). The same ra­tionale applies to the catalogue extracts found between the TP and music text or at the back of scores. Although a range of extracts seems to have been used when successive reprints were produced, their chro­nology is generally difficult to establish, and therefore we have not taken into account differences in content between respective extracts except when the scores that contain them are identical in all other respects (e.g. 25/2–1d-W, 32/1–1c-Sam). In contrast, the presence or absence of such an extract does constitute a reliable classificatory criterion, and thus scores containing a publisher’s catalogue on the back of the last page of the music text are not grouped with counterparts in which a blank page appears there (e.g. 15–1a-B&H, 15–1b-B&H). 

The issues surrounding publishers’ stamps on title pages are also highly complex, not least because of their great di­ver­sity. Whereas stamps were applied to none of the Chopin editions of Brzezina, Escudier frères, Chappell, Friedländer, Kaufmann, Hofmeister, Haslinger, Kistner, Mechetti, Ricordi and Schott which have been catalogued in this online re­source, the more common practice adopted by all other publishers was to affix one or more stamps on the scores leaving their sales outlets. A reliable chronology would no doubt emerge from an exhaustive study of the numerous stamps used by these publishers, leading in turn to greater refine­ment in the dates proposed for given impressions and, as a result, a possible proliferation in the number of catalogue entries. Without the benefit of such a study (which is beyond the scope of our own) and in order to avoid unjustifiable expansion of the catalogue’s contents in view of the chronological and other ambiguities surrounding the stamps, we have concluded that differences between scores in this respect do not offer an adequate basis for regarding them as distinct impressions if they are otherwise identical. Copies bearing the signature stamp of Maurice Schlesinger may therefore be classified with later reprints of what appears to be the same impression bearing the stamps of one of Schlesinger’s successors (Brandus et Cie; G. Brandus, Dufour et Cie; and G. Brandus et S. Dufour). As above, the criterion is once again that the scores in question are identical in all other respects and can be distin­guished only by virtue of their respective stamps (e.g. 1–1-Sm, 8–1a-Sm, 24–1-Sm, 32–1-Sm). 

A particular B&H stamp which we refer to as a ‘publisher’s oval logo’ warrants special mention. Unlike the firm’s other stamps, all of which were applied by hand (usually at the lower left-hand side of a TP), the one in question is always centred at the bottom of a TP and apparently was added to the lithographic stone or printing form before the production of the TP. We therefore regard the B&H oval logo as an integral part of the text of relevant TPs, which justifies the separate classification of those copies bearing this ‘printed stamp’ (e.g. 15–2d-B&H, 20–1a-B&H) versus those which do not.[6] 

The attribution of a score to a particular firm has been made with reference to two elements above all: the name of the publisher printed on the title page, and the plate number at the bottom of pages with music text. This policy has guided us even when other features such as wrappers or stamps indicate that given reprints were brought out not by the original publisher but by a successor. For example, despite the fact that M. Schlesinger’s name still appears on their title pages, the scores of Opp. 11, 21, 26 & 27 (see 11–1b-Sm, 21–1a-Sm, 26–1c-Sm, 27–1a-Sm) bearing a new price or ordinal number[7] on the TP were published by Brandus, by Brandus et Dufour, or by Brandus, Dufour et Cie.[8] Although there remains no doubt about their prove­nance, these scores have been attributed to the original publisher because none of their distinctive attributes warrants a different classification according to the criteria set out at the beginning of this paragraph. The later reprints of editions first released by Mechetti, which feature the wrappers of Spina and of Schreiber (see 44–1a-ME, 44–1c-ME, 45–1b-ME, 50–2-ME), have been similarly classified, i.e. according to the original publisher. In effect, the principles that have guided us mean that a later impression has been attributed to a different publisher only when the latter modified the original plates either to revise the edition as a whole (e.g. 10–1d-LE, 16–1b-Sm, 17–1a-Sm, 18–1b-LE, 25–1b-LE, 28/13-24–1c-BR), to update the title page (e.g. 1–1b-A&P, 2–1a-BR, 2–2b-Sam, 3–1a-BR&D, 4–1a-Sam, 6–1c-BR, 9–1c-BR, 11–1c-BR, 12–1a-LE, 13–1b-BR, 14–1a-BR, 21–1c-BR, 22–1c-BR, 25/9–1g-A&P, 27/2–1g-A&P, 31–1a-BR, 32/1–1j-A&P, 37–1d-BR, 59–1c-F, 59–2a-PE, HEX–1b-Sam) or, at the very least, to put a new plate number on one or more pages of the music text (e.g. 28/1-12–1b-BR, 35–1c-BR, 35/3&4–2a-BR, 36–1d-BR, 37–1c-BR, 38–1b-BR, 39–1b-BR, 40–1a-BR, 41–1b-BR, 43–1b-BR, HEX–1-BR).

[1] Op. 4 is included under Works with opus numbers because the Austrian first edition (the proofsheets of which served as Stichvorlagen for the French, German and Italian editions) was initially engraved in 1840 though not released until 1851.

[2] The Variations on a German National Air are classified under Works without opus numbers for reasons similar to those detailed in note 1 above, i.e. the Austrian first edition was engraved during Chopin’s lifetime but published only after his death.

[3] Appendix IV lists the posthumous first editions of works discovered after 1878, which have not been catalogued here. See the Introduction for further discussion, likewise regarding the volume’s overall structure.

[4] It is often difficult to date the first editions, in that official deposit and publication dates did not always correspond to the dates of commercial release. For further discussion see England under ‘Legal contexts’ and Dating the English editions under ‘Chopin’s publishers’ in ‘Historical overview’.

[5] Only the German first edition of the Polonaise in G- major features in this catalogue, given that no copies of the Polish first edition have been located.

[6] For further discussion see Publications of Breitkopf & Härtel, especially notes 13 & 14.

[7] I.e. ‘1’ in the case of Op. 11.

[8] The stamps on respective TPs, the existence of an original wrapper for one of the copies of Op. 26, and reference to contemporary publishers’ catalogues all lend credence to this claim.