This is some fascinating shipwreck material originally posted on the Australian National Maritime Museum blog.
I was trawling through the museum’s collection of sheet music when Married to a Mermaid (about 1866) caught my eye. Initially, I was struck by the peculiarity of the image; a sailor is depicted holding hands with a mermaid on the seabed with what appears to be animated fish hovering above. A closer look at this item and other examples in the collection, however, reveals that these lyrical verses and colourful images also communicate cautionary tales and heroic deeds. Musical stories struck a chord with 18th and 19th century listeners, and added to commonly held romantic notions surrounding life at sea.
The publication of music reached its peak in the 19th century as recital halls, theatre shows and parlour music became an integral part of social life in Britain, Australia and America. Sheet music publishers flourished and their product was sold cheaply and widely distributed. In this sense, sheet music represented…
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