UW Music Library Scores Big With Large Bequest

Apr 2, 2014

William Crawford had a passion. During his lifetime, he collected rare, first edition vocal musical scores. By the time he died in 2013, he had amassed more than 700 scores by such famous composers as Beethoven, Bach and Wagner. Now those scores have found a home in Seattle.

Crawford was never affiliated with the University of Washington, but he left his collection to the UW School of Music. These musical scores span approximately three centuries, from the late 1600s through the late 20th century. One of the earliest is an unbound composition by Franz Joseph Haydn. What makes it particularly valuable is the fact that Haydn's signature is clearly visible on the front page.

UW Head Music Librarian Judy Tsou says four libraries vied for Crawford's collection, which has an appraised value of $1.3 million. She believes he chose UW because he loved to visit Seattle. Once he was convinced that his collection would be archived and tended adequately here, he committed to the donation.

"This about doubled our collection of rare music scores," says Tsou. Although the bequest was made to the School of Music, the material will be archived at UW Libraries' Special Collections. Scholars and students will have to make special requests to view them under supervision. Nevertheless, Tsou believes this will be a boon for scholars, particularly music historians on the West Coast. The nearest similar collection is at the University of California's Berkeley campus.

Crawford's collection really did run the musical gamut, from the early Haydn scores, to collections of opera scores by Verdi, to music by 20th century composer Arnold Schoenberg. Some of the scores, like Peter Tchaikovsky's opera "Queen of Spades," are bound in hand-tooled leather, with colorful title pages. Other works, like the Haydn score, have no protective bindings.

"At the very end, his assistant couldn't find this," Tsou recounts. Crawford stored most of his rare material in one room. In his bedroom, she says he had a pile of "regular material.” After Crawford's death, she and the assistants searched through both collections, looking for the Haydn score. In the end, they found it, tucked among a couple of random books. It was a big relief for everyone.

The William Crawford III Rare Music Collection will be available to scholars in approximately one year. Judy Tsou says she's looking for grant money to digitize the 700-plus scores so they can reach a wider audience.