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    Sale 2011

    Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana

    12 June 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 23

    [EMMETT, Daniel Decatur (1815-1904), composer]. I Wish I was in Dixie. Song by W[alter] H. Peters Esq., Music by J.C. Viereck. New Orleans [Louisiana]: Published by P. P. Werlein, n.d. [copyright 1860].

    Price Realised  


    [EMMETT, Daniel Decatur (1815-1904), composer]. I Wish I was in Dixie. Song by W[alter] H. Peters Esq., Music by J.C. Viereck. New Orleans [Louisiana]: Published by P. P. Werlein, n.d. [copyright 1860].
    5 pp., (13 3/16 x 9 7/8 in.,). Engraved title-page in decorative alphabets bordered by scrolling vines and tendrils. Engraved music for piano and voice, 3 or 4 staves to the page, plate number "550" at borrom of each page. Disbound, cover with small stamp of a Memphis, Tenn. music-seller.


    It is one of the ironies of the Civil War that "Dixie," the unofficial national anthem of the Confederacy, was penned a northern Unionist for a New York City black-face minstrel show. The song, with a very catchy, rhythmic tune, was written by Daniel Decatur Emmett for the celebrated theatrical troupe, Bryant's Minstrels. It was first performed by them in New York in April 1859. A different troupe performed it in New Orleans, on April 9, 1860, as one of the numbers in the extravaganza Pocahontas. It seemed to touch a deep chord of Southern nostalgia and rapidly became such a hit that the song was featured in at least 13 other performances that month. Several broadside editions of the words appeared and on 9 April the first--unauthorized--edition of the music and words, under the title "I Wish I Was in Dixie," was issued in New Orleans by P.P. Werlein. This sheet music carried the publisher's plate number "547." Probably to circumvent Emmett's copyright, the publisher credited the song to W.H. Peters and the music to J.C. Viereck. "The music bears a crude resemblance to the original, but the words are quite different" writes Fuld, who located only three copies (James T. Fuld, Book of World-Famous Music, pp.196-199).

    A few days later, Verlein issued a second pirated version, entitled "Dixie's Land," with plate number "549," verses now ascribed to J. Newcombs. According to Fuld the music and words in this version are closer to Emmett's original (Fuld locates only two copies). In a period of no more that ten days, with sheet-music sales evidently booming, Werlein produced yet another edition--the present--marked "Corrected Edition," again crediting the lyrics to W.H. Peters and bearing plate number "550." Of this edition, Fuld knew of only a single copy (his own, now in the Pierpont Morgan Library).

    When war broke out, both sides marched to "Dixie." Jefferson Davis even used it at his inaugural ceremony and in July 1863, George Pickett ordered it played before his division's famous charge at Gettysburg. No copy of the New Orleans editions have appeared at auction since at least 1975. Lilly Library, American Patriotic Songs...An Exhibition, Bloomington, 1968.


    EMMETT, D.D. I Wish I was in Dixie's Land. Written and Composed expressly for Bryant's Minstrels by Dan. D. Emmett. Arranged for the Pianoforte by W.L. Hobbs. New York: Firth, Pond & Co., No. 547 Broadway [1860].

    6pp., 4to. Engraved title with decorative borders (verso blank), 3pp. engraved music, publisher's 1860 catalogue on last page. Copyright date on 1st page of music altered in ink from "1858" to "1860." Disbound.

    FIRST AUTHORIZED AND FIRST NORTHERN EDITION OF "DIXIE". The authorized first printing, with five stanzas of Emmett's classic verses in dialect ("I wish I was in de land ob cotton, Old times dar am not forgotten") set to Emmett's original tune. Curiously, among the music-sellers (in Boston, Cincinnati, Pittsburg) is the pirate P.P. Werlein of New Orleans. (2)

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