New Light on William Corbett's Gresham College Bequest

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Though peripheral figure today, William Corbett was one of the most successful, significant and prolific English musicians of the first half of the eighteenth century. He was also one of the most important collectors and importers of Continental music, instruments and art, of the period. Like Sherard, he published several collections of trio sonatas in the Corellian mould; indeed, he published more trio sonatas than any other eighteenth-century English composer and cultivated an image as an authority on Italian music and culture. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Corbett experienced Continental music first-hand. On his travels through France, Germany and Italy, he also amassed a vast library and a collection of rare and expensive instruments and pictures, which he attempted to sell in London in 1724 and 1728: the collection was so valuable that Hawkins accused Corbett of supplementing his income through espionage. After his death, and a rejection of his bequest to Gresham College, Corbett’s collection was dispersed through several auctions—as described by Burney and Hawkins. A rough catalogue of his instruments was included in Corbett’s will, though it seemed that none of the sale catalogues survived. However, John Cunningham has recently unearthed among the notes of John Ward, Gresham Professor of Rhetoric 1720–58, a copy of the final sale catalogue from March 1751. The catalogue offers new details of Corbett’s collection and sheds valuable light on the transmission of instruments across the Channel in the early eighteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusical Exchange between Britain and Europe, 1500-1800
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Honour of Peter Holman
EditorsJohn Cunningham, Bryan White
Place of PublicationWoodbridge
PublisherBoydell & Brewer
Chapter18
ISBN (Print)9781783274925
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Oct 2019

Publication series

NameMusic in Britain, 1600-2000
PublisherBoydell and Brewer
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