The following is an electronically translated and edited version of a portion of Kari Michelsen's "Musikkhandel i Norge" ("Music Publishers in Norway"), published in 2010 by the U. of Oslo, pp 216-218.
The Music Publisher
I have recorded 18 titles released by Cormontan’s music publishing company, all probably published between 1879 and 1886. These titles represent three composers, all female: Sophie Dedekam, daughter of the wealthy merchant and mayor Morten Dedekam in Arendal; Caroline Schytte Jensen, pastor's wife and mother of Gabriel Scott, and Theodora herself. The compositions are predominantely for piano or voice and piano. The cover designs were elaborate, with the music printed in the German style and retailers in Copenhagen as well as several Norwegian cities.
Music Rental Library
The usual way to number a music lending library was to start with number 1 and continue throughout the library with the contents organized by instrument type. Some of the original works listed in the catalog from Theodora Cormontan’s lending library are lost, but the Aust-Agder Historical Center in Arendal has preserved about 270 volumes. When the individuals who archived the rental library created a list of contents for it, they retained - fortunately for us - the library's original numbering system. It appears that Theodora Cormontan decided from the start that piano music should have the number series 1-10000, vocal music the 10000-11000 series, and chamber music the 11000+ series. The highest number in the piano area is 8279. It is uncertain if she truly amassed this much music because so much of the library is lost. Vocal music starting with No. 10,000 has the highest recorded composition of No. 11,950. We can assume from this that her lending library was significantly smaller than 11,950 volumes, perhaps around 11,000 volumes total. Most of Cormontan’s published music was released in Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Russia in the 1870’s, 1881, and 1884. This leads to the assumption that the rental library started simultaneously with her publishing company, i.e the end of the 1870’s.
The above work, Op. 33 by Edvard Grieg, was a part of Cormontan's personal library that came to the Jorgensens in 2011. It once belonged in her rental library--note the stamped identification at the bottom of the page. In 2015 Bonne and Michael donated this music to KUBEN, the museum in Arendal, Norway where the remainder of her rental library is archived.
Theodora immigrated to the United States in 1887, but the catalog of the Aust-Agder Historical Center contains music that was not published until 1890, 1896, and ca. 1900. This music - 14 pieces in all - has no rental library numbers. The explanation seems quite simple: there is a subsequent owner who has included them in the original library without bothering to continue any numbering. This new owner is unknown. What remained of the library came to the Aust-Agder Cultural History Center in 1962. Theodora Cormontan was also a diligent composer and most of her works were released through her own publishing company. A hymn tune composed in 1877, Høyt fra det himmelske høye (Loudly from the Heavenly High) is still sung, as well as her musical setting of Aftendæmring (Evening /Twilight), a setting of a Hans Christian Andersen poem.
An advertisement placed by Theodora Cormontan in the March 16, 1877 edition of the Lillesands-Posten publicizes her Music Rental Library, meaning that this branch of her business was in operation several years before she began publishing music in 1879. In the ad she notes that her library contains 8000-9000 works. She quotes subscription rates for the library: patrons could subscribe annually, semiannually, quarterly, monthly, weekly, or daily, with different rates for each kind of subscription. The library was open from 9-1 Monday-Friday. She had a catalog listing about 4000 works from the library, with her ad stating that the next catalog would be published as soon as possible. She also advertised that she was a representative for Carl Warmouth [sic] Music in Christiania (now Oslo), and that she carried new music by that publisher and could also take orders for music published by them.
An advertisement from the September 11, 1880 edition of the Grimstad Adressetidende provides more information on aspects of Cormontan's business:
Th. Cormontan’s Music Store
From beginners to advanced students, the most diverse Teaching Music is available for piano, voice, strings and wind instruments.
Educational music, etudes, exercises, sonatas, light works, salon pieces, and vocal music are available in a wide selection of high-quality choices in the most economical editions. Additionally, I recommend my Music Lending Library. Music rentals at the lowest cost. New Catalog featuring new music. Enrollments anytime.
Manuscript paper, violin strings, pianos.
Theodora Cormontan, Arendal.
The Arendal Depression (Arendalskrakket) of October, 1886 compelled Theodora Cormontan to close the doors on her business and attempt to liquidate her assests, as documented in this advertisment from the Nadenæs Amtstidende, Feb. 5, 1887: Cash Only. Owing to the end of my music publishing and distribution business, I am selling music for piano, voice, harmonium, guitar, zither, instrumental, strings, etc. Cash only receives a 25% discount. Th. Cormontan, Arendal.
The ad ran several times.