Charles Begg (1825?–1874) was born in Scotland and, after serving as an apprentice in the piano manufacturing industry, established a piano factory in Aberdeen. In 1861 he and his family emigrated to Dunedin, New Zealand, and almost immediately he opened a shop in Princes Street. As well as selling and repairing pianos, the business sold a wide range of sheet music and musical instruments. After his death, his widow Jesse (d. 1914) became manager of the company Charles Begg & Co Ltd, and she established branches in Timaru, Wellington and Invercargill. Two of their sons were also active in the business. A branch office was opened in London in 1903. Charles Begg & Co Ltd ceased to exist in 1970, when all the shops were sold off to individual purchasers. Several of the shops kept the Begg name, which was well known in New Zealand. In Dunedin the shop was bought by Walter Sinton, the previous manager of Begg’s. It was sold again in 1980 to Malcolm and Terry Dixon who owned Terry’s, another Dunedin business. This business still operates today as Beggs MusicWorks.
Beggs Music sold its large collection of sheet music to Terry’s Music Shop in the 1960s. Terry’s also acquired the Dunedin stock when they bought the Begg’s premises from Sinton. The Begg Collection was purchased by the Library from John Evans of La Piesse Galleries, Dunedin, in 1984.
The original archive numbered over 100 000 items, from which the Library selected about 13 000 Australian imprints and about 7000 New Zealand, British, US and European imprints. While the collection extends up to the 1950s, its great strength is in sheet music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many of these works are in large format and have decorative covers, often with illustrations of Australian performers or Australian themes. There are a huge number of popular songs, especially salon and patriotic songs. There is also a large quantity of piano and violin music.
The collection also includes 577 music albums, mostly technical and educational materials.
The Begg Collection was integrated into the Australian and overseas sheet music collections. The provenance can be identified by the accession number MUSM 142235.
Gordon Parry, Begg, Charles (1825?–1874), Dictionary of New Zealand biography, vol. 1, Allen & Unwin and Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 1990, p. 23