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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 2567

Nathan Richardson papers


Diary, autograph book, and Boston concert record book of American musician, Nathan Richardson.


  • Creation: 1849-1859

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


.3 linear feet (1 volume)

Includes three albums belonging to Richardson:

  1. A "Music album" compiled by Richardson including autograph signatures and letters sent to him from prominent persons, especially musicians, including: Franz Liszt, members of the Mason family, John Charles Frémont, James Buchanan, John Greenleaf Whittier, and others.
  2. A diary from 1853-1859 documenting his travels, expenses, and with a few clippings and reviews of his works. Diary is especially rich in travel in Europe, including meetings with musicians. Also includes clippings of letters Richardson sent to the Boston Transcript documenting his travels.
  3. An autograph manuscript record book kept by Richardson as secretary of the "Managing Committee," a group of prominent men from the Boston area, who in 1855-1856, organized a subscription series of concerts held at the Boston Music Hall, conducted by Carl Zerrahn. Group included Charles Callahan Perkins as chairman, and Charles F. Chickering as treasurer.

Biographical / Historical

The following information was taken from Susan Hickok's biographical sketch, Nathan Richardson: Musician, Composer, Publisher, Businessman, 2008 January 7. [Her more extensive text is available in the "Curatorial file" for bMS Am 2567].

Nathan Richardson, born in South Reading, Massachusetts (now Wakefield) on 30 July 1827, was a pianist, music publisher, pedagogue, and was involved in the musical community of Boston in the 1840s and 1850s. One of his most important contributions was his piano teaching book, Richardson's new method for the piano-forte... which, for many years from its publication in 1859 through the early twentieth century, was the preferred instruction method for piano teachers.

He was the son of Dr. Nathan Richardson (1781-1837) and his second wife, Elizabeth Alden (1797-1832). Losing his parents at a young age, he probably came under the care of his half-brother, Dr. Solon Osmond Richardson (1809-1873). It is unclear where he lived from 1837-1846, but he appears in Warren, Massachusetts in the Class of 1845-1846 at the Quaboag Seminary. It is possible that during this time he lived with his first cousin, Nathan Richardson (1806-1892), and to prevent confusion, he became known as Nathan "the second."

After 1846 he moved to Boston to study piano with J. C. Johnson and George Webb (1803-1887) and to perform and teach piano. Two of his compositions were published during this time: Camilla waltz (Oliver Ditson, 1847) and General Taylor's own (Henry Farnum, 1848). He left Boston for Europe in 1848 and studied with Karl Mayer (1799-1862) and Ignatz Moscheles (1794-1870), then spent almost two years studying with Alexander Dreyschock (1818-1869). While studying in Europe his correspondence was published in a variety of local newspapers, including the Daily Evening Transcript (Boston, Mass.). Exercises learned during this period, especially those with Dreyschock, were later used as part of his first piano instruction book. In July of 1852, Richardson met Lowell Mason (1792-1872) and his family in London, then in August he returned to the United States on the ship "Canada." By November he was advertising to provide piano instruction in Dwight's Journal of Music as a "Professor of Piano-Forte" and later as a "Professor of Music." In March of 1853 he returned to Europe, perhaps to gain recommendations for his new work, The modern school for the piano-forte. He returned to the United States in June of 1853 (again on the ship "Canada"), and negotiated with his half brother Solon to help fund and create a music store and publishing enterprise called "The Musical Exchange." The store opened at 282 Washington Street, Boston, in October of 1853. By 1853 he had also written and printed a small volume entitled Inklings for the lovers of music and had his first piano instruction book published as: The modern school for the piano-forte : composed an compiled from the works of the most eminent modern and classical authors and teachers, comprising a complete course of instruction, based upon a new principle, progressive in its character, with anatomical illustrations of the hands, thoroughly explained, showing the use of their muscles and tendons in playing the piano. Richardson also made several trips to Europe during this time period, visiting publishing houses and professors of music, as he secured music to be sold in his store. He contracted with prominent American musicians, such as William Mason (1829-1908) and George Root (1820-1895), to publish their compositions.

On October 27, 1856 Richardson married Mary Ann Moore (1831-1913) of Warren, Massachusetts (Worcester). It was also during the month of October 1856 that The Musical Exchange ceased to exist. Nathan joined the partnership with George D. Russell at 291 Washington Street to create a larger musical enterprise of selling and publishing (Russell & Richardson) in which Solon Richardson was still a silent partner. Apparently some time during that year, Nathan Richardson contracted tuberculosis. The Richardsons moved to Warren in April of 1857 to live with Mary's father, John Moore, and paid him board. In the continuing quest for a cure, Nathan traveled alone to Smyrna (today Izmir, Turkey) during January of 1858, returning in May of that year.

Nathan Richardson completed his second piano teaching book in the fall of 1858, Richardson's new method for the piano-forte... (Oliver Ditson published the volume in 1859), and Nathan and Mary set-off for Paris in another effort to find a cure for Nathan's tuberculosis. Nathan Richardson died on November 19, 1859, at the age of 32. Mary returned with his body on the "Ocean Queen" in December 1859 and he was buried in Warren.


Arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

52M-150; 52M-151; 52M-152. Deposited by Mrs. Sydney A. Beggs, 81 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts; received: 1953 January 30.

Related Materials

Other manuscript material concerning Nathan Richardson can be found at:

  1. The Harvard Theatre Collection has some uncataloged items in the Bound music collection that relate to Nathn Richardson. See "Lowerre printed music volumes" (49) (89) (95) and (243).
  2. Library of Congress. Performing Arts Reading Room: Richardson, Nathan, 1827-1859. The elementary theoretical and practical modern school for playing the piano forte : autograph manuscript, no place, undated [ca.1953]. ML96.R46 Case.

Processing Information

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt with the assistance of Susan Hickok

Processing Information

In 2020-2022, as part of a conscious and inclusive re-description effort, entries were updated to include a woman’s first name when identified.

Richardson, Nathan, 1827-1859. Nathan Richardson papers, 1849-1859: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
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Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

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