Monday, 13 February 2017

Button & Whitaker

Button & Whitaker were an important firm of music publishers, musical instrument makers, and retailers at the beginning of the nineteenth-century.  They had taken over the famous Thompson family premises at 75, St. Paul's Church Yard, and they carried on their business at the same address. The Thompsons had been Handel's principal publishers and St. Paul's Churchyard was throughout the Georgian era a centre of musical publishing and retailing, alongside bookshops and book publishing.

A violin made and sold by Button and Whitaker in 1822


After the Thompson's had ceased, Messrs Purday & Button took possession of the premises, and sometime about 1805 commenced publishing sheet music. In 1807, the name of the company changed to Button & Purday, and in 1808, the firm became Button & Whitaker. The latter member was the musician, John Whitaker, an organist, and a composer of many popular songs.Whitaker was born in 1776 and died in 1847. Before 1816 other people joined and it became "Button, Whitaker, & Beadnell," or "Button & Company," and in 1820 the business is carried on as Whitaker & Co.

Button & Whitaker had acquired all the Thompson plates and stock-in-trade, and they re-printed a good many of the old books, besides issuing new publications. They continued Thompson's practice of publishing yearly sets of twenty-four country dances.

Thomas Wilson in his 1816 Companion to the Ball Room, is very critical of this type of book,

"The only reason to be assigned why Collections of Country Dances, particularly annual ones, have been so deficient both in Merit and Originality, is, that good Composers have considered that it would not pay them for composing Dances... Although most of the Music Publishers are Composers; yet few of them compose their own Dances. They are generally, either procured from persons writing them for a mere Trifle, or from young Amateurs, who are fond of obtruding their Productions on the Public".

This did not prevent Wilson from producing collections of dance or contributing dance figures to the publications of others including Button and Whitaker from 1812.

The premises in St. Paul's Church Yard ceased to be a music warehouse sometime after 1830.

Their dance collections include:

Button, Whitaker and Beadnell’s twenty-four country dances with figures by Mr Wilson for the year 1815 etc

Button and Whitaker’s Selection of Dances, Reels and Waltzes for the Piano Forte, Harp, Violin or German Flute with figures ( N.9 )

Button and Whitaker’s Twelve Elegant New Dances for the year 1811 Button and Whitaker’s twenty-four Country Dances, with figures by Mr Wilson. For the year 1814, adapted for the violin, German flute or oboe.

Button, Whitaker and Compy’s Twenty Four Country Dances, with figures by Mr. Wilson, for the year 1818. Adapted for the Violin,

Button, Whitaker and Compy’s twenty-four Country Dances, with figures by Mr Wilson. For the year 1819. Adapted for the violin,

Button, Whitaker, and Beadnell’s Twenty Four Country Dances, with figures by Mr. Wilson, for the year 1815. Adapted for the Violin, German Flute or Oboe.


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