The Simrock Edition of the Well-Tempered Clavier II

Yo Tomita

First published online in April 2005
Last revised on 25 November 2017

Introduction

Nicolaus Simrock of Bonn (founded in 1793) is one of the first publishers who engraved and marketed Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. One of the most notable features of his edition was that his WTC II volume (plate number 138) appeared before WTC I (p/n 166), effectively swapping the volumes. The WTC II volume presumably appeared between February and 6 June 1801 (judging from the advertisements published in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, Beylage of the Leipziger Zeitung as well as Nägeli's letter to Breitkopf in which he commented on the Simrock edition as reproduced by Refardt). Neither Nägeli nor Forkel appears to have managed to publish their respective editions by this time. This makes Simrock's WTC II the first edition.

Today Simrock's edition of WTC II is known in many different shapes, which can be distinguished by the different designs of its title-page and the musical text. (NB. WTC I appears to be much simpler.) Simrock continued to sell this edition well into 1880s as its catalogue Verzeichniss des Musik-Verlages von N. Simrock in Berlin (1880) indicates. From around 1856, Simrock decided to offer the WTC as an individual prelude and fugue pair as well, judging from the reports in the Musikalisch-literarischer Monatsbericht über neue Musikalien, musikalische Schriften und Abbildungen (Aug. 1856-Apr 1857) and the catalogue entries in the 2e Supplément au Catalogue de Musique de N. Simrock à Bonn (c.1860). One of the aims of this website is to share the information with other scholars and librarians, so that we can learn a complex history of Simrock's business activities.

Simrock's preparation of musical text and revisions

Simrock's musical text originates from the manuscript (now lost) prepared by Neefe who died in 1798. This was in fact the main sale's point in Simrock's advertisement published in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (February 1801, erroneously printed as '1800'); but there were others who did not share his view. Nägeli was one of these, as we learn from his letter to Breitkopf dated 18 March 1801 (-- see Refardt, p. 391-3). This may have been one of the reasons why Simrock produced a newly engraved edition (with very light corrections) in short space of time. Soon after the publication of WTC, he established in 1802 a Paris branch that was managed by his brother Henri who was teaching singing and the horn at the recently established Paris Conservatoire that may account for the making of a new set of plates. The dedication of this edition to the Paris Conservatoire as inscribed in the title-page designs (see below) may therefore have had some significant implication for Henri's business ambition. At some point in time, Simrock approached C. F. G. Schwencke to carry out thorough revision to the musical text. Few details are known as to how and when Schwencke was recruited, and much research still remains to be done. Curiously, this heavily revised edition scarcely survives, implying that Simrock did not like Schwencke's work after all.

Known extant copies of the Simrock WTC II examined

I have examined the text of the following specimens for this study:

  1. A-Wn (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Musiksammlung): SH.J.S.Bach.58
  2. US-Ymayhall (Mayhall private collection, Youngstown, Ohio) (sold in 2015 to the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing)
  3. GB-Lbl (British Library, London): Hirsch III.57
  4. US-Pdandrea (Michael D'Andrea private collection, Princeton)
  5. US-BER (Riemenschneider Bach Institute, Berea, Ohio): Kenney 2443
  6. PL-Wu (Warsaw University Library): Mus 3409
  7. GB-Btomita (Yo Tomita private collection, Belfast) (2 copies)
  8. GB-Lbl (British Library, London): e.113.aa
  9. US-BER (Riemenschneider Bach Institute, Berea, Ohio): Kenney 2444
  10. GB-Er (D1558 Tovey Collection, Reid Music Library, University of Edinburgh) (no title-page, preludes and fugues nos.27, 15, 12 apparently sold individually). Wove paper, no watermarks
    New Information received after 5 April 2005
  11. US-Pct (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh): 786.2187 B11W SI
  12. US-NORhc (The Historic New Orleans Collection, Williams Research Center, New Orleans): M22 .B11 W6 S5 1800
  13. D-LEb (Bach-Archiv Leipzig Library, Leipzig): Rara III, 52
  14. US-SLug (Gaylord Music Library, Washington University, St Louis): M22 B122 W6473
  15. F-Pn (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris): Ac.p.2273
  16. US-Brabin (Paul Rabin private collection, Boston)
  17. US-CAe (Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA): Mus 627.1.400.5.

If you own a copy, please let me know.

Classifying the extant copies

My examination of the above copies shows that the Simrock edition of WTC II can be classified into one of the following Types:

Type Music Engraving Title-Page Specimens examined Watermark and other comments
1a ME 1 throughout; Neefe TP 1 1 TP printed with the main part; WM 1 throughout
1b ME 1 throughout; Neefe TP 2 17 TP printed with the main part; no WM (wove) throughout
1c ME 1 throughout; Neefe TP 3 8, 16 TP printed with the main part; WM 4 throughout
2 ME 1 (pp.2-4) & ME 2 (pp. 5-97); Neefe TP 2 2 (no WM, wove = pp.2-4; WM 1 = pp.5-97) TP printed with the main part
3 ME 1 (pp.2-4) & ME 2 (pp. 5-97); Schwencke TP 2 3 (no WM, wove = pp.2-4; WM 1 = pp.5-97), 15 (WM 1) TP printed with the main part.
4a ME 2 throughout; Neefe TP 2 4, 11, 14 TP and ME use different paper; all sources have WM 1 in main body; for TP, 4= laid, no WM; 11= wove, WM 1; 14=laid, WM 1)
4b ME 2 throughout; Neefe TP 1 5, 6, 7a, 7b and possibly 13 (TP lacking) TP and ME use different paper; TP = WM 2; ME = WM 1
5a ME 3 (p.2 only); ME 1 (the rest); Neefe TP 3 12 wove paper, no WM
5b ME 3 (p.2 only); ME 1 (the rest); Neefe TP 3a 9 wove paper, no WM
6 ME 1 (with minor revisions); Neefe none 10 wove paper, no WM

Assessment

Type 1 (1a, 1b, 1c) comes with the title-page that is printed on the reverse side of the first musical page where the first half of the C major Prelude is printed with page number ‘2’ engraved on the left top corner. Musical text comes from the first generation of engraving (ME 1) that contains numerous errors in musical text. Three kinds of the title-page are identified so far. It seems logical to assume that 1c  comes first, followed by 1a and 1b.

Type 2 and 3 also comes with the title-page that is printed on the reverse side of the first musical page, but comes with the mixed state of music engraving: pp.2-4 (including the title-page) is from the initial engraving (ME 1), and the remaining portion in the second generation of engraving (ME 2) which corrects some engraving errors. A question must be asked why two stages of engraving are mixed: the fact that it involves the title-page (page 1) must means that the first four pages were printed earlier and physically connected; when the new engraving with fewer errors (ME 2) became available, the publisher made the hybrid copies of ME 1 and ME 2. Even when further revision is made to ME 2 by Schwencke, this practice continued.

Type 4 (4a and 4b) comes with the title-page that uses different paper from the main body of the edition, and that its verso side as well as the recto-side of the first musical page (page 2) is blank. Musical text is ME 2 Neefe throughout. Types 4a and 4b are distinguished only by the title-page design. It is likely that 4a is an earlier batch; when this elaborate design is used up, the publisher resorted to the left-over of the older design in the old stock. The dating of WM 2 may reveal the date in future study. Whether or not Type 4 comes earlier than Type 2 or 3 is yet to be figured out in future study.

Type 5 (5a and 5b) is marked by the use of ME 3 on page 2, and the remainder of the edition using ME 1 with minor modification made to the movement identifier (e.g. “Prelude | 1” in two rows), hinting that the publisher made a renewed attempt to sell his editions by using the oldest plates that still had their working life.

Type 6 bears the same characteristics as Type 5 but was sold as an individual prelude-fugue pair with thematic catalogue. This type was sold between c.1856 and c.1890 or possibly later.

The above groups roughly follows my current theory of the chronological order in which the edition was produced and sold. To improve this theory, I still need to gather more information. I am therefore looking forward to hearing from you about your copy. Thank you!

Yo Tomita

Acknowledgements

I am indebted to the private owners and music librarians who either facilitated my examination of the sources in their possession or provided information by answering my enquiries.


Supplements

Title Pages

Type 1: Designed with only alpha-numeric letters in 14 rows (including two horizontal lines). Judging from the inclusion of Paris office above the main office in Bonn, the dedication to the Paris conservatory, and the fact that the design was copied by Broderip Wilkinson of London in 1802, it was made after the Paris branch was setup there by Henri in 1802. Some surviving copies have hand-written prices like this sample.
Type 2: A more elaborate and decorative design, also in 14 rows of text. At bottom right, we find the engraver's inscription: 'Ecrit par Sampier'. It is likely to be intended as a replacement of Type 1, as the original design looks much less attractive.
Type 3: Graphically conceived title-page placing a lyre in the middle of the rising-sun type design. The text runs in 10 rows. Unlike other types, the first three rows of text are slightly curved in bow shape, and the price and the plate number are part of the original design, hinting that it was the initial design before the Paris branch was setup in 1802.
Type 3a:An improved design of Type 3, using light blue ink by double impression to enhance the design of radiance. (The same process is seen in the title-page of II Lieferung of the score of the B-minor Mass sold in 1845, hinting that this type dates from the mid 1840s.)
Type 3b: a revised design of Type 3, using light green ink to enhance the design of radiance. Note also that the patch of unpainted area is smaller than Type 3a.
TP 1 TP 2 TP 3 TP 3a TP 3b

Together three different designs of the title-pages are known to me. The last type has some variants by double impression using colour ink.

TP 1: Designed with only alpha-numeric letters in 14 rows (including two horizontal lines), which reads: "Preludes et Fugues | pour le Forte-Piano | dans tous les tons, tant majeurs que mineurs | par | J. Seb. Bach | dediés | Au Conservatoire de Musique | par l' Editeur. | ---*--- | I. Partie. | Contenant 24 Préludes et 24 Fugues | -------------- | à Paris aux adresses ordinaires. | à Bonn chés l' Editeur N. Simrock." Judging from the inclusion of Paris office above the main office in Bonn, the dedication to the Paris conservatory, and the fact that the design was copied by Broderip Wilkinson of London in 1802, it was made after the Paris branch was setup there by Henri in 1802. Some surviving copies have hand-written prices like this sample.

TP 2: A more elaborate and decorative design, also in 14 rows of text, which reads: "48. | PRÉLUDES ET FUGUES | Dans tous les tons, tant Majeurs, que Mineurs. | Pour le | CLAVECIN ou PIANO FORTÉ | Composés par | Jean Sebastien Bach | Dédiés au Conservatoire de Musique | par l' Editeur. | [to be filled]        [to be filled] Partie      Prix. [to be filled] | Contenant 24 Préludes et 24 Fugues. | -------------- | A PARIS. Aux Adresses Ordinaires. | A BONN. Chés l'Editeur N. Simrock." At bottom right, we find the engraver's inscription: "Ecrit par Sampier", who, according to one source, was active in France around 1814, but further work is needed to establish when this design was introduced. Information in row 10 (work number, volume number and price) is supposed to be modified if required. At some stage, the plate was revised to include both "I" for the "Partie" (which was scratched out in this specimen and "2de" is handwritten), and price "12 Fs".The choice of typeface and wording closely resemble to that of H. G. Nägeli's edition may not be coincidence: it is likely to be intended as a replacement of TP 1, as the original design looks much less attractive.

TP 3: Graphically conceived title-page placing a lyre in the middle of the rising-sun type design. The text runs in 10 rows, which reads: "48 | PRELUDES & FUGUES | dans tous les tons tant majeurs, que mineurs | pour le | Clavecin ou [the image of lyre appears here] Piano-Forte | composés par | Jean Sebastien Bach | I Partie.[left flush]  Prix 12 Francs. [right flush] | Chez N. Simrock à Bonn. | 138." Unlike other types, the first three rows of text are slightly curved in bow shape, and the price and the plate number are part of the original design, hinting that it was the initial design before the Paris branch was setup in 1802.

TP 3a: An improved design of TP 3, using light blue ink by double impression to enhance the design of radiance. (The same process is seen in the title-page of II Lieferung of the score of the B-minor Mass sold in 1845, hinting that this type dates from the mid 1840s.)

TP 3b: Another improved design of TP 3, using light green ink to enhance the design of radiance. Note also that the patch of unpainted area is smaller than TP 3a.

The title-pages often appear to use a different type of paper from the main body of the edition; when this is the case, the verso side of the title-page is blank (and the recto side of the first music plates is also blank). Exceptions exist: in Sources 16 and 17 (and possibly Sources 1 and 8 as well, which needs to be checked), Page 2 (the first page of the C major Prelude) is printed on the verso side of the title-page. This is an important point of observation as it concerns the circumstances of the production.


Music Engraving (page 2)

Type 1 is the initial design. There is space between the brace and clefs.
Type 2 is the 2nd engraving (= WTC I engraving). There is no space between the brace and clefs. Musical text received corrections mildly.
Type 3 is the 3rd engraving of this opening page (page 2) only, accommodating the title of the work in the head margin.
ME 1
ME 2
ME 3

ME 1 is the initial design. There is space between the brace and clefs.

ME 2 is the 2nd engraving (= WTC I engraving). There is no space between the brace and clefs. Musical text received corrections mildly.

ME 3 is the 3rd engraving of this opening page (page 2) only, accommodating the title of the work in the head margin.


The form of trills

In addition to the shape of braces and clefs, ME 1 and ME 2 can also be distinguished by the shape of ornament. The following images are taken from page 4.

vertical "tr" used in ME 1.
slightly slant "lr" used in ME 2.

Handling of Plate-Number error on page 7

Plate numbers are printed uniformly at the centre of the bottom margin as .

This sequence of corrections corresponds to the sequence of musical text being corrected from ME 1 to ME 2.


Neefe vs Schwencke

ME 2 has two variants: the second generation of the engraving based on Neefe's exemplar and the revision carried out by Schwencke.

The easiest place to check if the Neefe's text (based on M B/1974) is replaced with that of Schwencke (using his own manuscript P 204) is the tenor line of the Prelude no.3 in C# major, page 10. Use the following as a guide:


Neefe


Schwencke


Watermarks

WM 1 [Laid Paper] -- (a) Strasburg shield; (b) "AIB" (Hoboken Kat I (1967), p. 48, says 'VIB')




 

These watermarks are always found at the edge of the paper where it was cut into halves. These pictures attempt to put the watermarks back by placing the marching halves found on different pages.

There is a report that this watermark also appears in wove paper. (Source 11)

 

WM 2 [wove paper] title-page

This mark is found in the title-page of both of my copies. A wreath with something inside (letter "R"?), with letters "BASEL" underneath. 

Kenney 2443 does not show any watermarks, but the paper is wove, and possibly the same paper as that of my copies.

WM 3

[added in 5 July 2008]

Found in Source 15:

  • first page of music: grape with "JKOOL"
  • the rest: (a) large pedastal (or coat of arm) with X-shape; (b)  "D&Gbdaow" ('Dirk Blauw'?)
 

WM 4

[added on 16 August 2016]

VanderMulenComp

Found in Source 16:

  • “VanderMeulen&Comp.” split in two leaves in the middle
  • Title-page is the first page of the first signature, with Prelude in C major starting on its verso side.
  • The paper is apparently in use between 1800 and 1810. The van der Meulen paper mill was bought by the Brohl Wellepappe company in 1919. (Information kindly provided by Paul Rabin).