An early eighteenth-century manuscript of harpsichord music: William Babell and Handel's 'Vo' far guerra'
ON 29 and 31 January 1717, the London music publishers John Walsh and John Hare advertised the Suits of the most Celebrated Lessons Collected and Fitted to the Harpsicord or Spinnet by Mr. Wm. Babell. As far as is known, the appearance of this imposing volume attracted no published comment and history has not recorded the multi-lingual expletives no doubt uttered by George Frideric Handel when he found that the collection consisted mostly of his music - keyboard arrangements of arias from Rmaldo, II Pastor Fido and Teseo. This volume, the third in a series of operatic transcriptions published by Babell, was by far his most successful. The collection was reissued the following year in a pirated edition by Richard Meares, with a new title which pointedly omits any mention of William Babell, and again by Walsh, from the original plates, circa 1730. The collection came out circa 1745 in a French edition under the title of Pieces de Clavecin de Mr. Handel - which, it now appears, was perhaps not altogether misleading.