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Collection Scope and Content Notes


Stephen Foster’s sketchbook is a twelve- by eight-inch (30.9 x 20.5 cm) book of 113 leaves half-bound in brown leather with heavy paper boards covered in red and blue marbleized paper. All entries are in similar handwriting in pencil, except for red pencil for verse 1 of “Old Black Joe” (p.109v); all on same paper. The book is inscribed “Allegheny City June 26 1851” in Foster’s hand on page 1 recto and appears to span a nine-year period.

The sketchbook includes draft texts for sixty-four different songs including several of his most popular ones; a few pages include sketches of the music. Several of the draft lyrics are for unpublished songs (these are noted with brackets around the titles). The book also contains odd jottings, scribbles, doodles, and exercises in which Foster apparently practiced his signature and initials. A number of pages were torn out and are missing.

One page had been cut out by the composer’s granddaughter; it has been recovered and placed in its original position.

A photostat copy created in the 1930s is available of this item, as is a digitized copy ( http://images.library.pitt.edu/s/sketchbook/), and a transcript of the entire document.


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