The fiftieth anniversary of Tecla Editions

This article was published in Soundboard 47.4 in December 2021. The editor of Soundboard, Robert Ferguson, wrote a prefatory note as follows:

Brian Je­ffery is one of the classical guitar’s most eminent scholars. The articles, prefaces, introductions, and other writings he has published, and the collections and editions of music he has compiled and edited, constitute a contribution to guitar history and literature that will not be easily surpassed. Dr. Jeff­ery’s publications have been issued through his own imprint, Tecla Editions, and 2021 marks the fiftieth anniversary of this landmark publishing house. Below, Brian Jeff­ery tells us the story and the philosophy behind his success. ­

(You can also read this article as it was published in Soundboard in December 2021, entitled “The fiftieth anniversary of Tecla Editions”, as a pdf.)

This year 2021 is indeed the fiftieth anniversary of the first publication of Tecla Editions in 1971, the imprint under which I have published my biography of Sor and my editions of Sor, Giuliani, and many others. Th­e GFA inducted me into their Hall of Fame because of that book and those editions, and I regard that as a very high honour. Th­ank you, Bob, for your kind introduction!

So now I’m going to write how it all happened. It’s a tale with some amazing anecdotes not only about the publications but also about such things as lute manuscripts, concerts, medieval water pipes, HM the Queen Mother in the UK, and scuba diving.

But I’m also going to write about what lies behind my editions: fascinating, interesting, and important procedural and theoretical aspects that aren’t much written about, and I think a lot of them may be new to many readers. I found them fascinating already when I was 17, so you might too, and they will most certainly help any musician who wonders what kind of edition to get or to use, and why, and I most certainly think that they are important to you if you are a guitarist, whether a beginner or a top-class performer, as you will see.

So what is it that lies behind my editions? Well, every edition and book that I have published derives from my training in the use of sources and from those procedural and theoretical aspects, and we shall see in more detail later exactly how that works.

Not only that, but although my training and experience are those of the university, every edition that I have published is built to make the edition and its historical context available to performers at any level, even 17-year-olds, even 11-year-olds. Th­ere do indeed exist some university music editions whose introductions are evidently addressed only to specialists, and I have absolutely nothing against them; but my editions are addressed both to specialists and non-specialists.

So let’s start with the training that I was lucky enough to receive, to see in what way it affects my publications in Tecla. It was academic, at university level, and it consisted above all in the analysis of texts, that is to say textual analysis, something which you very much need if you are going to make editions.

Textual analysis

You can let a text wash over you, like the man I once saw when the curtain fell at the end of a performance of Madame Butterfly, wholly overcome with emotion—or do I do him an injustice? Had he already done textual analysis on that libretto and only then allowed himself to be overcome with emotion? ­That is the ideal of ideals, in my experience.

When Maria Callas prepares to sing the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen (in YouTube search “Callas Habanera 1962”), it seems to me that during those few seconds while the orchestra plays the introductory bars (from 2:00), her face changes, and I like to think that she has already analyzed that text in depth and that it is the depth of meaning of that analyzed text that she is about to reveal to us. Carlo Bergonzi said of her: “Callas studied the text, the meaning of the words, and as a result, she became a diva.” Similarly, a great instrumental performer will have extensively analyzed a work before performing it.

Textual analysis means that you closely analyze a text or a piece of music: you take it apart, identifying its structure, putting it in its context, and seeking its innermost meaning. Your motive may be just personal satisfaction and that’s fi­ne. Or it may be to study or teach a text to a class, or to be an actor playing Hamlet onstage or Callas singing.

Textual analysis is also what you do if you engage in the ancient and honourable profession that is the establishment of texts, which is what we are talking about here. It goes back to the scholars and librarians of ancient Alexandria who established the texts of Homer from the many papyrus fragments that had survived to that time, and of course it goes back to even before them. They compared many different Homeric fragments in order to establish their texts. Today if you want to establish a professionally adequate text of something, whether it be literature, documents, music, or anything else, textual analysis is a large part of what you will do.

Medieval water pipes

Canterbury Cathedral, the Water Tower
The “waterworks” drawing

In my case, my study of textual analysis began by analyzing not a text but a picture and a ground-level artefact. I had the good fortune to attend the oldest school in the world, the King’s School Canterbury—yes, the oldest school in the world. You will ­find it at number one in the Wikipedia article “List of oldest schools,” from the year 597, in the 6th century. The school is in the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral in England, and at that time in the Water Tower of the Cathedral a framed drawing was displayed, which was a bird’s eye view of the cathedral and monastery buildings, dating from the 12th century . It shows in detail the pipes that brought clean water from a spring outside the walls and then distributed it throughout the monastery (for the drawing and the Water Tower, see a good recent article about this). Someone suggested that I might go in for the Cathedral Prize, which was a prize donated by two ladies who lived in the Precincts for an essay on any aspect of the cathedral, by writing a comparison of the pipe work in the 12th-century drawing with the still existing pipes when I was at the School.

For indeed, the surviving pipes were real pipes of the twentieth century, even though the “waterworks” drawing of the twelfth century very probably, as has been pointed out, referenced not only the real pipes depicted in the drawing but also the words of the prophet Ezekiel (chapter 47):

“And it shall come to pass that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.”

The night watchman showed me the existing pipes. He said that they were in use when the cathedral had been bombed during the Second World War less than twenty years earlier, and we walked up toward the old parade ground of the Buffs Regiment to where the source was.

Did I win the Cathedral Prize with that essay? Yes, I did. Was it relevant to music editions? Yes, it was, because the essay compared a text—in this case a drawing—with something in actual existence, and it was very good practice for analysis because in textual analysis you do a lot of comparing.

The next steps for me in textual analysis were normal schoolwork in which textual analysis was the normal thing that you did, whether you were studying a text in English or Latin or in my case French or German: you took it apart to discover in depth its structure and meaning. A particular step was a class in palaeography that the School arranged for three of us boys (another of whom was the later well-known actor Oliver Davies) with the cathedral archivist Dr. William Urry, who later became Reader in Medieval Latin Palaeography in the University of Oxford. He had a small house in the Precincts and a wonderful wife and two small children. We three boys worked our way through reproductions of medieval manuscripts and became adept at reading some of them.

That in its turn was a preparation for the next big event, in my last year at King’s. I had obtained an Open Scholarship to Christ Church Oxford, but at a rather young age, so it was decided that I would go to Oxford to take it up a year later than might be expected. So I had what would now be called a gap year. But instead of exploring remote parts of the globe, instead of what would certainly have been wonderfully exciting, to travel for example down the Amazon, I explored the manuscripts and printed books of the Middle Ages and later in Canterbury Cathedral library, and it was exciting indeed. It was like being in the footsteps of Schliemann while he excavated Troy. I read the 12th-century manuscripts that are in the Cathedral Library, and especially the later ones from the 16th and 17th centuries, which are about the King’s School.

It was informal teaching by Dr. Urry during that year. I handled the actual manuscripts, I read them, transcribed them, and learned such things as what to do in your transcript when a corner of a fragile manuscript is missing. Leave a blank? Invent something? No, you compare. You look at the context of the surrounding words and see if you can ­find a similar passage somewhere else in the same manuscript that might give you a clue about what the missing area might have contained.

Urry and I also looked at a relatively modern book from 1908 by C. E. Woodruff, who was a Canon of the Cathedral and himself an old pupil of the School. He had died only two years before I arrived. It looks as though he wasn’t trained in history, and he made a series of mistakes in the transliteration of manuscripts, or mistakes in interpreting them, which he wouldn’t have made if he had been a professional historian. Urry showed me the same manuscripts that Woodruff had cited, putting the actual manuscripts side by side with the transcriptions from them in Woodruff’s book, and they weren’t the same. So I learned a very valuable lesson: that if you want to write history, or to make an edition of something, you had better have some training in it before you publish.

At the end of the year I published my ­first book, Notes on the History of the King’s School Canterbury, issued in an edition of three copies.

Oxford and The Song of Roland

That year at Canterbury, paradoxical as it may seem, was essentially a year of postgraduate study before becoming an undergraduate. Then I went up to Christ Church Oxford for three years as an undergraduate, and again the study was textual analysis. I was reading Modern Languages, that is to say the history of languages and of their literature. My essays for my tutor analyzed a whole series of texts in French. One of them was the Chanson de Roland, another 12th-century text, the story of the gallant Roland in battle. The principal surviving manuscript of the Chanson de Roland is in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the famous manuscript Digby 23. As an Oxford undergraduate I had access to the Bodleian, so I went there and ordered up the Digby manuscript and read the Chanson de Roland directly from that actual manuscript—again it was like discovering fantastic wonderful ruins. I took into the Bodleian the modern edition of the Chanson de Roland by Whitehead, and I was able to compare the manuscript with the edition and see what the modern editor had done in passages where there were editing decisions to be made. I don’t remember fi­nding any errors in his edition.

Lachmann and Bédier

But perhaps my most exciting work at Oxford on textual analysis was not in French but in German. I specialized in medieval German and my tutor was David McLintock, a wonderful man who shared my enthusiasm for discovery and introduced me to the 19th-century editions in the Taylorian Institution at Oxford and to the work of Karl Lachmann, who stands as a giant ­figure in the line of the Alexandria scholars who had worked on Homeric texts.

Karl Lachmann

Lachmann himself worked on Homer, but it was his work on Minnesangs Frühling and Walther von der Vogelweide that I studied. I was able to follow what Lachmann and his fellow scholars had done in establishing those Middle High German texts. I like to think that McLintock saw in me a fellow enthusiast, and later I built on my study of Lachmann and his successors in my own editions. Without Lachmann and his successors my editions would not have been the same.

Celebrated editors of ancient French texts were Gaston Paris and his successor Joseph Bédier. I have to give special mention here to Bédier because of his very correct reasoning, his brilliance, erudition, and common sense.

Bédier’s idea was that when you are making an edition, if you combine readings from di­fferent sources for the same text as many editors did, you end up with something that never existed in reality and comes from di­fferent cultural and historical milieux. Whereas if you use only one source, at least you have there a reality, something that had indeed existed at one single moment, in one single cultural and historical milieu. I knew already about Bédier when I was at Oxford, but it’s only recently that I have actually read his principal work about the principles of editing (centered on the medieval French poem the Lai de l’ombre) (it is available online in Gallica), and it is brilliant. It’s also nice that we in a sense overlapped, because on the day that he died I already existed, being only six weeks away from being born.

Joseph Bédier

At the end of the three years at Oxford the examiners awarded me a first class honours degree, which is the equivalent of a summa cum laude from Harvard. I understand that the present prime minister of the UK, Mr. Boris Johnson, when he was at Oxford, dearly wanted to get a First but the examiners didn’t give it to him, but fortunately they did give it to me.

The lute, and Sor

Meanwhile I was playing the lute in many concerts including my highlight, which was a concert in the Middle Temple Hall in London attended by HM the Queen Mother of the UK in which I played the lute in Dowland’s Lachrimae with a quartet led by Sir Neville Marriner. I became familiar with lute notation. I obtained a postgraduate degree in musicology from Oxford University with a study of the many sources for many di­fferent instruments of the works of Antony Holborne, a study that was immediately published in Musica Disciplina. I was appointed lecturer (= professor in the US) at the University of St. Andrews, where I wrote a doctoral thesis on French Renaissance comedy that was published by Oxford University Press, and then spent a year as Visiting Associate Professor at UC Berkeley, where I gave a course on the French chanson and its texts from about 1470 to about 1550 and published in that field, and then I taught at UC Santa Barbara. Later, in 1997, I held the Curtis Mayes Orpheus Chair in Musicology at Florida State University, Tallahassee.

Then with a research fellowship from the Cañada Blanch Foundation I started work on Fernando Sor, traveling all over Europe to find the original publications (no internet in those days, just libraries, trains, and hotels). I also applied textual analysis and textual criticism to the many surviving manuscripts of Dowland and the other English lute composers, in which the same pieces occur again and again but with many small di­fferences and where an intending editor—or indeed just a player—has to decide which manuscript or manuscripts to play from, or which version or versions to use in making an edition. Although it was music, exactly the same factors came into play when making those decisions as though it were a literary text.

The music department of Oxford University Press invited me to make an edition of some lute music, and I did, entitled Elizabethan Popular Music for the Lute. They also invited me to publish with them some transcriptions of lute music for guitar, which I did with two sets of pieces by Dowland and five other items, which are still available today on the Tecla website. They also invited me to publish with them some pieces by Sor, which I did.

The qualifications for making professional music editions

That brings us to the end of the pre-Tecla period, in which I learned about textual analysis and making editions. You can see that it covered quite a few years and that it was academic and professional, with professional university qualifications. It is indeed professionally qualified musicologists who make professional music editions. Their qualifications will normally come from a university department of musicology, or alternatively from a university department of history or literary history, because the principles of editing older works are the same in documents as they are in music; only the language di­ffers.

If you are buying a music edition for yourself or even for your child, even if it is at elementary level, and you want it to be reliable and professional, it is desirable that its editor should have academic professional qualifications in musicology or history or literary history if it is to count as a professionally made edition.

The first Tecla book is published, in 1971

Now we arrive at the moment when the first Tecla Editions book came out, in 1971. It was an edition of early printed pamphlets of French song texts of around 1520, an edition which I entitled Chanson Verse of the early Renaissance. The subject presented the now familiar situation that the various pamphlets included the same song-texts but with di­fferences, some slight and some not so slight. Again, which version to publish in each case? I based the decisions on the experience that by now I had. The book was awarded the Tovey Prize of the Faculty of Music at Oxford. In that same year, 1971, I took part in the conference on Josquin des Prez that was held in New York, with a paper on the literary texts of Josquin’s chansons.

I had the book Chanson Verse of the early Renaissance printed. The printer of that edition of 1971 was Artes Gráficas Soler in Valencia, Spain, and this year 2021 they and I are celebrating the fifty years since it appeared. They are still there, the oldest firm still in continuous existence in Valencia, and in 2017 they printed my new book España de la Guerra.

Sor gets published

I soon had the biography of Sor and the complete guitar works of Sor both ready to go. I was able to publish them with a firm in Miami and New York. Copies of that facsimile edition arrived in Barcelona, Sor’s city of birth, and people there tell me that that edition was a sensation because they did not even know previously that such works existed.

I travelled all over the US giving talks on Sor to publicize the book and the edition, and I’m still in touch with at least one person who came to one of those talks, in New York. I also went to Mexico, where friends of mine owned a café called La Tecla because it was frequented by writers (hence a tecla, a key on a typewriter keyboard) and by musicians (hence the tecla which is a key on a musical keyboard). I asked them if I could use the name for my new publishing house that was issuing both literature and music, and they said yes, and so Tecla Editions came into being. Also in Florida I learned to scuba dive and got my diving certificate there.

Sor’s Seguidillas and an amusing song-text in it, which nobody performs

As well as Sor’s music for guitar solo and guitar duet, I also published in Tecla an edition of his Seguidillas for voice and guitar, amazing songs full of wit, an edition that has become very well known, with an extensive introduction and extensive editorial notes by me. But it taught me something that up to that point I hadn’t quite realized: if the editorial notes look technical then singers and guitarists often don’t read them. Not even when the notes are entertaining! In the case of the Sor song in that book called “De amor en las prisiones,” I underlaid one text that is nowadays sung by everybody, but the editorial notes which I provided in my edition also gave an alternative text for the same music found in another early manuscript, a funny text, comic and frankly a bit indecent by our standards (not too much), given by me in full in the editorial notes to the book, but which no one has ever performed as far as I know. All anyone has to do is keep the music exactly as it is but sing that other funny text instead of the text that is underlaid in the edition. But it looks as though people haven’t read the editorial notes, because that has never been done to my knowledge! So I think I shall have to lend a helping hand and make the song also available with the funny text already underlaid.

The Giuliani edition and more

I then brought out in the UK a new facsimile edition of the Sor guitar works, this time with my own ­firm Tecla Editions, then the Complete Works of Giuliani. I must record my great thanks to the subscribers to that Giuliani series because without their steadfast subscriptions it would scarcely have been possible to publish something so large, with its 3,000 pages. Some of those subscribers will read this, I expect, but others have no doubt, alas, departed this life. Many of the Tecla publications of that time are still available on the Tecla website in both printed and digital form. Then I issued the New Complete Works for Guitar of Sor, this time in re-engraved form not facsimile, Songs for Voice and Guitar, and a book of pre-Victorian ballads with guitar, and quite a lot of other publications including my new book quite recently in 2017: España de la guerra, about the political and military songs of the war in Spain from 1808 to 1814 that is usually known as the Guerra de la Independencia. Why did I write that book? Partly because Sor is the principal known composer of those political songs with six of them to his credit, but also because I like documents and documentary proof, and I could see that the very name “Guerra de la Independencia” isn’t correct: the documents show that that war was not fought for independence but for personal and political interests, and the songs take their place in the propaganda of that side. “As usual,” I hear you say, and you would be correct.

Important: The Beethoven edition (and why it matters for guitar)

But the edition with which I consider that I have given the most benefi­t to musicians in general and hence indirectly to guitarists—a huge benefi­t in my opinion—is my 1989 edition of the thirty-two piano sonatas of Beethoven in facsimiles of the earliest editions. If you’re a guitarist, don’t stop reading! Although the edition is for piano, it is still very relevant to guitar editions because of the methodology. I published it because I had done a comparison. I had compared the fi­rst and early editions of the Beethoven piano sonatas with the modern editions of those same sonatas, and every single modern edition of them that I was able to lay my hands on and examine changed a great many notes without saying why. Thousands of changes of the notes? Without any stated reason? It didn’t make sense. So I made this facsimile of the original editions of the sonatas, with the very generous cooperation of the Austrian National Library, who hold copies of those earliest editions in their Hoboken Collection in order that pianists, especially students, should be able to see what Beethoven actually published and to play from that if they so choose. Why play through the curtain of unexplained changes in modern editions of the sonatas when in a facsimile edition you can play the piano sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven edited by Ludwig van Beethoven? For that is indeed what they are. This collection is not an eccentricity nor a side interest for me but a strictly professional edition fully in accordance with Bédier’s idea of publishing a single source.

My colleagues and my customers

In all those publications I owe an immense debt to very many people who helped. To many librarians who courteously provided copies of items in their collections, including the Austrian National Library, who provided ­first-class photocopies of the Beethoven piano sonatas. (I thought it was wonderful that they asked for six free copies of the edition once it was printed, which they then would be able to send to their librarian colleagues in eastern Europe, who in those days of fenced-off Iron Curtain Europe didn’t have funds to buy the edition.) To many colleagues who discussed and checked the editions (and I have also been able to help some of them with their researches). To the Giuliani Complete Works subscribers. To several people who told me of biographical items about Sor that they had discovered. And through the years, to the very many people who purchased from Tecla and who wrote in to say that they like the publications, perhaps above all the Sor biography and the Beethoven edition.

I’m in personal email contact today with many of the people who use and buy and play from my editions. Many of them are from a university background like me, and many of them are not only guitarists but also lutenists like me (even though I don’t play the lute in public any more).

But I make my editions to be authentic, professional, urtext, original and unfalsi­fied, and easily readable by specialists and non-specialists alike, and I’m happy that I can see from the correspondence that many people even outside universities, especially young people, do indeed benefi­t more and more from my editions.

I leave you with one or two ideas. Do read the editorial notes. Do consider playing from facsimiles, for example in my Giuliani facsimile editions. I don’t see why anyone would have a problem and could go straight into it without the slightest problem.

So there you have it. That’s how I did it! That’s how I came to take an interest in textual analysis and speci­fically in making editions of both literature and music. And those are my hearty suggestions if you too would like to take an interest in editions and original sources. If you would like to read items that I have written, or to fi­nd out about editions from Tecla, you can ­find them at