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The M. Deneke Mendelssohn Collection


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The Mendelssohn archive owes its richness to the diligence of the Family in preserving an abundance of papers that represent many, but especially the epistolary and creative, activities of various family members over a period of a century. For example, the composer's sister-in-law had saved from his waste-paper basket a rejected and torn-up draft of the psalm he was setting to music in 1845. This manuscript (now in the Bodleian, and not, as Miss Deneke earlier intended, at Lady Margaret Hall) was the piece with which the story of the Bodleian's Mendelssohn collection began, since it was her purchase of this manuscript which prompted Paul Benecke to entrust his collection to her.

At the heart of the collection is the sequence of 27 Green Books, containing chiefly Mendelssohn's incoming correspondence. The period covered by these and other letters stretches from 1819 to 1974. The correspondence is of significant relevance to the wider field of musicology, especially with regard to music publishing and the concert life in Leipzig and other cities in Germany and Great Britain.

Some of the letters were removed from the Green Books after the composer's death, for a variety of reasons: his son Carl tore out the letters of his uncle Paul in anger; Robert Schumann's letters were taken for his biographer F. Gustav Jansen; some family letters, and a series from Karl Klingemann, were borrowed and not returned. The occasional practice of removing a signature for an autograph collection was begun by Mendelssohn himself: for Cécile's albums he took whole letters from Zelter, Thorwaldsen, J.F. Rochlitz, and Friedrich Wilhelm IV; and in a letter of 6 Dec. 1846 he is found choosing autographs for Klingemann's wife; he cut the signature neatly away and wrote the name of the writer on what remained. Later predators were not so careful. However, loss or disruption affects only a very small proportion of the whole series.

A small collection of letters written by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, together with those of Cécile that are inseparable from her husband's, is among the general papers recorded here and in volume II of the printed catalogue.

The general papers reflect many aspects of Mendelssohn's life from his childhood to his death, with music taking centre stage. The collection comprises school reports, early essays in harmony, diaries, memoranda of various kinds, words for music, and further letters that have no direct connection with Mendelssohn. The papers extend to drawings and portraits, and to miscellaneous writings by Mendelssohn and others. The music in the archive contains few of his own completed compositions, which were, for the most part, given to the Royal Library in Berlin in 1878 (now the Staatsbibliothek). The drafts and copies present here contain autograph single and collections of works, copyist's scores, and separate instrumental or vocal parts. A major part of the collection comprises manuscripts of music composed by others and owned by Mendelssohn.

Published music present in the Mendelssohn archive does not feature in the present catalogue of manuscripts, but is included in SOLO and described by Peter Ward Jones in Volume III of the printed catalogue: Catalogue of the Mendelssohn papers in the Bodleian Library, Oxford; vol. III: 'Printed music and books' (Tutzing: Hans Schneider, 1989).


  • Creation: 1819-1974


23.54 Linear metres (236 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • German
  • English
  • French
  • Italian
  • Latin

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. M. Deneke Mendelssohn b. 4, fols. 1-2.]

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. M. Deneke Mendelssohn a. 1-3, MSS. M. Deneke Mendelssohn b. 1-14, MSS. M. Deneke Mendelssohn c. 1-105, MSS. M. Deneke Mendelssohn d. 1-72, MSS. M. Deneke Mendelssohn e. 1-19, MSS. M. Deneke Mendelssohn f. 1-10, MSS. M. Deneke Mendelssohn g. 1-11, MSS. Don. c. 44, 151, MS. Mus. d. 210, Deneke 93 (1), MS. Autograph b. 6, fols. 11-12, MS. Autograph b. 10 (item 813)

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 6927


The M. Deneke Mendelssohn Collection contains a wealth of autographs, letters, drawing books, and other personal items relating to Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, as well as a considerable part of the composer's own library. Other relevant material is added from time to time.

Biographical / Historical

Jacob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847) was a German composer. Further information about his life and work, as well as that of his sister composer Fanny Hensel and many others, can be found in Grove Music Online and the various works cited here.

Other figures of significance to the history of the archive were the composer's wife Cécile (1817-1853), his grandson Paul Victor Mendelssohn Benecke (1868-1944) and Paul's friend Margaret (Marga) Deneke (1882-1969). Biographical details of Paul and Marga can be found in Who was who and in Marga's Paul Victor Mendelssohn Benecke, 1868-1944 published privately in 1954. In her memoir, she describes her family's acquaintance with the Beneckes, firstly in London, where Lily and Charles Benecke (first cousins of Felix Mendelssohn's wife) were their neighbours. Their brother Victor had married the Mendelssohns' daughter Marie, and Paul Benecke was the eldest child of that marriage. In 1894 Paul became a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. When in 1916 the Denekes moved to Gunfield, Norham Gardens, Oxford, they rekindled the friendship with their old neighbours from Denmark Hill, Camberwell. It is the friendship, music making and charitable work, particularly of Paul and Marga, that led the composer's grandson to see in Marga (herself a musicologist) a worthy guardian of the family collection.


The arrangement of this catalogue reflects the order of the published catalogue by Margaret Crum. The bulk of the correspondence is described first, starting with the Green Books.

The next group of papers includes drafts and copies of music which appear in the following order: autograph single works, collections of autograph works, copyist's scores, and separate instrumental or vocal parts.

Descriptions of music manuscripts owned by Mendelssohn form the next group. After this are described the manuscripts of other composers as collected by Marga Deneke.

Then follow drawings and paintings: portraits of Mendelssohn, his own sketch-books, Cécile's artistic work, and the albums which the couple kept. These include varied contributions, not just drawings, from many of their friends as well as pieces collected from earlier times.

Next come miscellaneous papers, including diaries, memoranda of various kinds, words for music, and such letters as were excluded from volume I of the printed catalogue, not having a direct connection with Mendelssohn himself. A collection of 'relics' will be found listed at the end.

The disorder of shelfmarks is partly the result of the gradual acquisition of the items; it also reflects the difficulty of imposing an order on such a varied collection. Furthermore, the Bodleian practice is to divide books according to size, indicated by a lower-case letter in the shelfmark 'a' to 'g' (large to small).

Other Finding Aids

With kind permission of the publishers, this catalogue has been converted from Catalogue of the Mendelssohn papers in the Bodleian Library, Oxford; vol. I: 'Correspondence of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and others' and vol. II: 'Music and papers' (Tutzing: Hans Schneider). Both volumes were compiled by Margaret Crum (1921-1986) and published in 1980 and 1983 respectively.

The numerous pencil annotations which had accumulated over the years in the Library's reading room copy of the printed catalogue have been incorporated into this online catalogue, along with many other amendments and revisions.

The printed material from the collection, as listed in the third volume of the printed catalogue (Catalogue of the Mendelssohn papers in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Vol. III: 'Printed music and books', compiled by Peter Ward Jones (Tutzing, 1989)) is catalogued in the library's main online catalogue SOLO.

Custodial History

A major component of the archive is Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy's incoming correspondence which (along with some of his drafts replies) he had bound into a series of 27 so-called 'Grüner Bücher' ('Green Books'). After his death in 1847 and the death of his widow Cécile in 1853, the Green Books belonged to their eldest son Carl. When he died in 1897, they passed to his son Dr Albrecht Mendelssohn, who married his first cousin Dorothea (Dora) Wach in 1905. The Green Books and their index were bought from Albrecht and Dora by his cousin, Paul Victor Mendelssohn Benecke (1868-1944), to add to material which he had inherited from his mother Marie, Felix and Cécile's elder daughter. Near the end of his life, Paul entrusted his collection to his friend Margaret (Marga) Deneke (1882-1969) and, after a spell at Gunfield, her home in North Oxford, it was transferred, on deposit, to the Bodleian for safe-keeping.

After Mendelssohn's death, the subsequent guardians of the archive (particularly Paul Benecke and Marga Deneke) made great efforts to trace and acquire further items to add to the collection. The most important addition at that time came, through Marga, from the children of the composer's younger daughter, Lili Wach of Wilderswil, Interlaken. Many other papers were added by Paul and Marga themselves, who, in turn, encouraged friends and other descendants of the composer to part with material, and the Library to acquire dispersed items whenever possible.

When Marga died, her sister Helena gave other musical manuscripts to the University in her memory and these were included in the collection. Following Helena's death, three years later, ownership of the rest of the collection passed to the Library. Further additions are made as opportunities arise.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Near the end of his life Paul Benecke entrusted the nuceleus of the present Mendelssohn collection to his friend Margaret Deneke, who later deposited it in the Bodleian for safe-keeping. For years the archive remained unshelfmarked but indexed (with Marga's help) by John Hough. At that time scholars also relied on Ralph Leavis's intimate knowledge of the archive.

Over a hundred additional letters and other papers were purchased from the composer's granddaughter, Maria Wach of Wilderswil, during the 1950s.

After Marga's death in 1969 the collection passed to her sister Helena, who bequeathed it to the Library in memory of her sister. Thanks to this generous gesture, the majority of the present collection came into the Library's ownership in 1973. In accordance with the Bodleian practice of calling collections after their donors, the Deneke name appears alongside that of the Mendelssohns in the shelfmarks.

Further materials related to the composer have since been and continue to be added to the collection, either as gifts or through purchases, from a variety of sources.


  • Wilhelm Altmann, Kurzgefasstes Tonkünstler Lexikon, begründet von Paul Frank, 14. Aufl. (Regensburg, 1936).
  • Clive Brown, A portrait of Mendelssohn. (New Haven, 2003).
  • Margaret Crum, 'The Deneke Mendelssohn Collection', Bodleian Library Record, 12:4 (Apr 1987), p. 298-320.
  • John Michael Cooper, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy: a research and information guide. 2nd ed., rev. and enlarged by Angela R. Mace. (London, 2010).
  • Wilhelm J. E. Darnton, The von Schunck family. (Privately printed, 1933).
  • Otto Döhner, Das Hugenottengeschlecht Souchay de la Duboissiere. Deutsches Familienarchiv 19. (Neustadt/Aisch, 1961).
  • Alfred Dörffel, Geschichte der Gewandhausconcerte zu Leipzig, 1781-1881. (Leipzig, 1884).
  • Rudolf Elvers, 'Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdys Nachlass' in Das Problem Mendelssohn. (Regensburg, 1974).
  • F. J. Fétis, Biographie universelle des musiciens. (Paris, 1860-1878).
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Werke, vols. 14, 15 (Register, Tagebücher). (Weimar, 1917, 1919).
  • Rosamund Brunel Gotch, Mendelssohn and his friends in Kensington. (London, 1934).
  • Susanna Grossmann-Vendrey, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy und die Musik der Vergangenheit. (Regensburg, 1969).
  • Fanny Hensel and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Die Musik will gar nicht rutschen ohne Dich: Briefwechsel 1821 bis 1846. (Berlin, 1997).
  • Sebastian Hensel, Die Familie Mendelssohn. (Berlin, 1879).
  • Carl Frh. von Ledebur, Tonkünstler-Lexikon Berlins. Reprinted, R. Elvers. (Tutzing, 1968).
  • Ulrich Leisinger, 'Mendelssohns Gedankenaustausch mit Heinrich Conrad Schleinitz: Eine wenig beachtete Quelle zur Geschichte der Gewandhauskonzerte' in Dem Stolz und der Zierde unserer Stadt: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy und Leipzig (Leipzig: C.F. Peters, 2004), p. 119-131
  • Roger Nichols, Mendelssohn remembered. (London, 1997).
  • Jacques Petitpierre, The romance of the Mendelssohns. (London, 1947).
  • R. Larry Todd, Mendelssohn: a life in music. (New York, 2003).
  • Peter Ward Jones, 'The library of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy' in Festschrift Rudolf Elvers zum 60. Geburtstag. (Tutzing: Hans Schneider, 1985) p. 289-328
  • Peter Ward Jones, Mendelssohn: an exhibition to celebrate the life of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847), June-August 1997. (Oxford, 1997).
  • Ralf Wehner, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy: Thematisch-systematisches Verzeichnis der musikalischen Werke (MWV) (Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 2009).
The M. Deneke Mendelssohn Collection
EAD version 2021 by Margaret Czepiel and Hannah Jordan
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom