The best portraits are perhaps those in which there is a slight mixture of caricature. . . . Something is lost in accuracy; but much is gained in effect.
—Lord Macaulay, Machiavelli (1828)
One of the more unusual items in the Bibliothèque Nationale’s manuscript collection is an autograph album containing a number of songs, tiny piano pieces, or musical themes, all dedicated to the album’s owner.
Its first few pages have autographs from several famous composers, Rossini, Berlioz, and Donizetti among them. The remaining ninety-some items were contributed by violinists like Paganini and Vieuxtemps, pianists like Chopin and Liszt, and singers like...