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Collection Overview

Thorp, Robert
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Robert Thorp of Alnwick Collection of Printed and Manuscript Music
Rare Book Division
Permanent URL:
6 boxes, 1 item, and 2 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (ex): Boxes F-000068; F-000069; F-000070; F-000071; B-000896; B-000897


Consists of printed and manuscript music collected by Robert Thorp of Alnwick.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The younger Robert Thorp, whose collection this must have been – even if part of it could have been formed by his father – did not go to either Oxford or Cambridge (he does not appear in either Foster or Venn), but became an attorney in Alnwick, Northumberland. This is evident from the group of business papers (see the last item in the short catalogue which follows) which accompany the music collection. Although he followed a traditional profession, it is however quite clear that his passion was music. It seems that the violin was his instrument: where any of the music here is for one instrument, it is nearly always the violin part that is here. The present collection shows much sign of use, not only in the occasionally poor condition of the books, but in their arrangement: in several cases, parts for various instruments are bound separately, so that the first violin has several pieces bound in one volume, and the second violin or cello has the corresponding parts for the same pieces bound in another volume. One can thus imagine that Thorp had a small group of friends in Alnwick with whom – a little like the Rev. Septimus Harding in Barchester, perhaps – he passed the Northumberland evenings in making music. Because the collection was put to practical use, I very much doubt if it was formed with an eye to rarity – yet several of the pieces are very uncommon and are not found in great musical collections such as those of the British Library, Bodleian and Harvard. However, the most interesting and significant feature of the collection is surely the fact that it was formed by a single man in Northumberland two hundred years ago, and that the core of it has survived to this day.


Arranged by dealer identifier.

Collection Creator Biography:

Thorp, Robert

Robert Thorp of Alnwick, the owner of this collection, was apparently the second son of the Ven. Robert Thorp (1736-1812), Archdeacon of Northumberland and Rector of Ryton, co. Durham. His elder brother Thomas (1768-92) was educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, but died as a young barrister in London; his younger brother Charles (1783-1862) was educated at University College Oxford and became Archdeacon of Durham and succeeded his father as rector of Ryton – but more particularly achieved importance as one of the founders of the University of Durham, as well as serving for many years as its first Warden. The younger Robert's dates are uncertain, but I have supposed that he was the middle of three brothers because of several pieces of evidence: (i) ODNB refers to the theologian John Davison (1777-1834) marrying 'Mary, daughter of Robert Thorp, elder brother of Charles Thorp'; (ii) Foster lists a Robert Alder Thorp, 's. Robert, of Alnwick, Northumberland, arm', as having matriculated at University College, Oxford, in 1815 at the age of 17 – this was the family college, and Alder was the maiden name of the elder Robert Thorp's wife (and thus, I contend, this man's mother and the young man's grandmother); (iii) Thomas Thorp (1768-92) is referred to by Venn as being the eldest son of Archdeacon Robert Thorp.

Collection History


Acquired 2008.

Archival Appraisal Information:

No part of the collection was separated at the time of processing.

Processing Information:

Processed using automated processes based on existing PDF inventory by Regine Heberlein in 2017.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

Collection is open for research.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Photocopies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions.

Credit this material:

Robert Thorp of Alnwick Collection of Printed and Manuscript Music; Rare Book Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184

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Subject Terms:
Genre Terms:
sheet music
Thorp, Robert