News from
Office of Communications
Stanhope Hall, Princeton, New Jersey 08544-5264
Telephone 609-258-3601; Fax 609-258-1301

Contact: Justin Harmon (609) 258-5732
Date: September 23, 1999

Princeton University Library Exhibition Honors George Frideric Handel

PRINCETON, N.J. -- The world of the great eighteenth-century composer, George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), is captured in a new exhibition at Princeton University’s Firestone Library. Entitled "Il Caro Sassone: George Frideric Handel at Princeton." The exhibition opens October 4 in the Leonard L. Milberg Gallery for the Graphic Arts and runs until January 9, 2000. The gallery is open to the public without charge from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends.

The exhibition takes its title from the enthusiastic cries of Viva il caro Sassone [Long live the dear Saxon] that greeted the performance of Handel’s opera, Agrippina, in Italy, and it is the first Princeton University Library exhibition in more than thirty years to celebrate the life and times of a musician. Centered around the James S. Hall Collection on George Frideric Handel, a rich collection of eighteenth-century printed music and related material collected by Dr. Hall, a British surgeon and scholar, the exhibition documents not only Handel’s magnificent operas, oratorios, and other compositions but the period in which he lived.

Drawing on other collections within the Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Curators Mary Ann Jensen and Paula Morgan have endeavored to capture the spirit of Georgian London, where the German-born Handel spent most of his career. For example, Music for the Royal Fireworks, which celebrated the end of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1749, is accompanied by the manual on how to set off these fireworks and a contemporary print of a fireworks display. From Westminster Abbey, where many of Handel’s works were performed and where his body rests, to the South Sea Bubble, a disastrous speculation in which Handel himself invested 500 pounds, visitors can retrace the composer’s footsteps and place his music in its proper context.

This journey is aided by a wide array of prints, including a striking panorama of Handel’s London and prints by William Hogarth, as well as quotations from Handel’s contemporaries. In one, Handel’s librettist expresses the hope that he can persuade the composer to undertake a composition that "may excell all his former Compositions, as the Subject excells every other subject. The Subject is Messiah."

Visitors can also view four miniature eighteenth-century theater sets, constructed by former Curator of Graphic Arts Dale Roylance, which provide a vivid evocation of the epoch and the beauty it inspired.

For further information, please contact Mary Ann Jensen, Curator, William Seymour Theatre Collection at (609) 258-5465 or Paula Morgan, Librarian, Scheide Music Library at (609) 258-4251.

An image of Handel is available for download at

Photo Caption (credit Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library): Portrait of George Frideric Handel by F. G. Wolffgang