Library and Information Services, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Beauty of Belaieff, by Richard Beattie Davis

The historic Russian music publishing house, Belaieff, produced startlingly beautiful covers for their scores.  The Whittaker Library at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has today been gifted a copy of the late Richard Beattie Davis' book, The Beauty of Belaieff.  

Like the collection, the book itself is beautiful. 

  •  More about the book itself HERE.
  • Find it in our collection, HERE

Richard Beattie Davis (1922-2008) was an English musicologist and collector.  His collection is now in Florida Atlantis University - the Davis Music Collection.

Book Review

A lifetime’s dedicated research has gone into Richard Beattie Davis’s magnificent book, The Beauty of Belaieff.  Describing Mitrofan Petrovich Belaieff as ‘more an enabler than a creator’, Davis documents the impressive music publishing house that this wealthy timber merchant established in middle life.  Belaieff’s publishing output is in itself a record of an epoch in Russian music, and Davis’s book devotes chapters to each of the 18 composers that Belaieff promoted.

The publication in colour of over one hundred and fifty title pages makes this volume handsome enough to merit the epithet, ‘coffee-table book’ as well as being a serious study, for these illustrations both enhance and inform the extensive text.  Music title pages are a rather unique art-form, and although this volume is not a history of Belaieff’s commissioned art-work per se, it goes without saying that Davis does provide commentary on them.

Davis systematically collected Belaieff publications on a grand scale, and his research embraced published histories, reference works, a vast amount of correspondence between Belaieff and his composers, not to mention extensive library visits.  It is gratifying, and humbling, to consider that Davis's initial researches in Westminster Music Library, and then in other libraries, were to bear fruit in such an admirable monograph.  Books of this stature are a welcome endorsement of the importance of specialist music libraries to music-lovers and researchers, and underline not only their important function of retaining old and perhaps forgotten music for posterity, but also the ‘enabling’ role that their staff are able to offer.

Dr Karen E. McAulay   

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