Festschriften (Ger.: ‘festival-writing’)
- Nigel Simeone
A publication of essays and other contributions usually issued to celebrate the birthday of a distinguished scholar, as a memorial volume, or on the occasion of an important anniversary. While Festschriften are described by a German word (and the custom of publishing them began in Germany), the phenomenon of producing such collections is an international one, with numerous series or individual volumes in English, French, Italian, and, indeed, in almost every other language used for scholarly writing. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest use of the word in an English-language publication was An English Miscellany (Oxford, 1901), a collection of essays presented to the literary scholar F.J. Furnivall on his 75th birthday, which was subtitled ‘a Festschrift’.
The Festschrift has been a feature of music literature since the 19th century and in addition to honouring academics, Festschriften have also been dedicated to the work of composers, performers and others involved in music such as librarians and publishers. The scope and usefulness of such publications varies widely, and the contents are sometimes too disparate to make a satisfying whole. But in many cases Festschriften contain a coherent group of contributions (sometimes in more than one language) on, for example, a particular aspect of music or musicology, or a particular composer. Others are affectionate but usually less enduring collections of short tributes from friends and colleagues, more in the tradition of the Birthday Book....