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Seminary scours its shelves for rarities

Who's next after Mozart and Beethoven finds?

November 24, 2005|From Bloomberg News

PALMER Theological Seminary, a Baptist ministry school near Philadelphia where compositions by Mozart and Beethoven have turned up in the last 15 years, is looking for its next big discovery.

"We've given the order for everybody to search the drawers," said Wallace Smith, president of the seminary, housed since 1940 in a former country club in Wynnewood, Pa. "So far, we've not found anything."

Palmer researchers found a bundle of manuscripts in 1990 that included Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Fantasia in C minor and Sonata in C minor. In July, librarian Heather Carbo stumbled upon an autographed manuscript by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Both were donated from the collection of William Howard Doane in 1950 to help pay for a new church. The works instead were put on display, before dropping from sight after being stored.

The Beethoven composition may sell for as much as $2.6 million when Sotheby's Holdings auctions it Dec. 1 in London. Beethoven probably wrote the 80-page copy of the Grosse Fuge, or Great Fugue, in 1826, the year before his death at age 56, Sotheby's says.

Palmer spent some of the $1.57 million raised through an auction of the Mozart compositions to hire music teachers at its Eastern University affiliate.

The sale of what Palmer officials dubbed "Beethoven's blessing" will help the seminary repay about $1 million in debt, build its endowment and finance a religious education program at Eastern University, Smith said. Palmer has about 480 full-time students.

Doane, onetime president of the J.A. Fay & Co. wood-working machinery company in Cincinnati, died in 1915, a decade before the seminary's founding on Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square. The Beethoven manuscript was last seen in public in 1890 in Berlin, when Doane probably bought it, the auction house said.

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