Edward Dent was born in Ribston, Yorkshire on 16 July 1876. Educated at Eton, he was admitted to King's College in 1895 and studied under Charles Wood and Stanford. He was elected a Fellow in 1902, and during this time made substantial changes to the curriculum for the MusB degree. From 1918 to 1926 he worked in London as a music critic, then returned to Cambridge as Professor of Music. He was elected to a fellowship at King's again, and held the Cambridge chair for 15 years. After retirement he moved back to London, where he remained until his death on 22 August 1957.
Dent was influential in bringing opera to a wider audience. He was involved in an early production of Mozart's 'Die Zauberflöte', which led to a long series of translations of librettos. He also worked on Italian Baroque opera and published books on Scarlatti, Busoni and on Mozart's operas. Dent was a director (later governor) of Sadlers Wells Opera, and a director of Covent Garden Opera Trust.
After World War I, Dent worked at bringing together the artistic communities of the warring countries. He was President of the International Society for Contemporary Music from 1923 to 1938, and President of the International Music Society between 1931 and 1949. He was a Fellow of the British Academy and was awarded honorary degrees from Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard Universities. After his death the Royal Musical Association instituted the Dent medal for work in musicology.
The papers contain little relating to Dent's early life, his family or his work as a music professor. The bulk of the collection concerns his work as a translator of operas and as a music journalist and author. There are a small body of papers relating to his involvement with Sadler's Wells and Covent Garden opera houses, and to his presidency of the International Music Research Society and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Among Dent's own research papers are his transcripts of Ferruccio Busoni's correspondence gathered in preparation for 'Ferruccio Busoni: a biography' by Dent, published in 1933.
Arrangement: The Dent collection had been worked on by several library staff members before the current catalogue was begun. The papers were held in several numbered boxes arranged by either the format of the documents they contained (e.g. photographs, typescripts) or by the content of the documents (e.g. translations). The divisions between categories was not always clear, for example typescript translations, which appeared in both 'Translations' and 'Typescripts'. In addition two boxes of material were labelled 'Found loose on shelf'. Material throughout the collection has been rearranged from the order found; the box lists showing the contents of each box before the rearrangement are available in digital form in the Archive Centre.
The three boxes of research on Busoni appeared to be quite distinct from the rest of the collection (see EJD/2/1), and have therefore been kept together in one section of the catalogue. Thus letters from the same author may appear in the Busoni section of the catalogue and in the main correspondence series; press cuttings about Dent's biography of Busoni are found in the Busoni section and not with the press cuttings about other books and reviews.
As part of the cataloguing process, covering letters donating papers or copies of papers to the Archive Centre but providing little additional contextual information have been removed to the Dent accessions file in the Archivist's office.
Except as noted, the Dent papers were given to the college by the executors of J. B. Trend (himself Dent's executor) in 1958.