JC's Online Music Books

A number of historic tune collections have been transcribed to ABC notation, and most of them are mirrored at several places on the Web. Here are the collections that I have copies of:
the Abraham Mackintosh Collection
titled "A Collection of Strathspeys, Reel, Jigs &c.", and published in Newcastle-upon-Tyne some time after 1797.
Anderson's "Budget of Strathspeys, Reels and Country Dances"
Published in Edinburgh around 1810, this collection contains versions of a lot of well-known Scottish Country Dance tunes from that era.
the Aird Collection
One of the important Scottish collections, by James Aird in 1778.
the Athole Collection
Another of the important Scottish collections, by James Stewart Robertson in 1884.
Barsanti's "A Collection of Old Scots Tunes"
Published in 1742, this collection is one of the few that include a figured-bass line, with melodic bass lines and good harmonies.
the Boston Collection
Oliver Ditson's "The Boston Collection of Instrumental Music" was published in 1910, in New York.
Bremner's "A Collection of Scots Reels or Country Dances"
Published by Robert Bremner in London in the early 1757, this collection has mostly Scottish Country Dance tunes, with very simple bass parts.
Brewer's "New Instructions for the Clarinet"
Published by Brewer & Co in London in the early 1800s, this book has an initial tutorial on notation and technique for the 5-key clarinet of the time, followed by 54 tunes, some with a second clarinet part.
Kitty Bridges' 1745 Collection of Country Dances
Little is known about this collection. The poem to Kitty in the preface implies that it was made by a friend, possibly as a gift, and hints that they lived in the London area. The small booklet contains 21 tunes and dances, one per page, and is dated 1745. Some of the tunes are now well known; others will be new to most readers. There is some variation in the script used, as well as the details of the music notation, implying that the booklet was either prepared over some time (probably years), or by several people in a short time.
Brewer's "New Instructions for the Clarinet"
Published by Brewer & Co in London in the early 1800s, this book has an initial tutorial on notation and technique for the 5-key clarinet of the time, followed by 54 tunes, some with a second clarinet part.
Button & Whitaker's Country Dance collections
These publishers in London in the early 1800s published several collections of Country Dance tunes. Only a few have appeard online, and some are just fragments.
the Caledonian Musical Repository
Two volums of this song collection were published, in 1806 and 1811, by Oliver & Co. in Edinburgh. Some of the songs are very well known today; others are interesting as examples of Scottish popular songs of the early 19th century. Many are now known only as dance tunes, with the lyrics rarely heard.
Cantelo's "24 American Country Dances"
subtitled ""as Danced by the British during their Winter Quarters at Philadelphia, New York, & Charles Town", was an early publication of dances from the (former) colonies. An unusual feature is identification of many sources, though often only initials are given. Hezekiah Cantelo, the collector, was a musician at Bath, and also included some of his own minuets in the collection.
Chappell's One Hundred Scotch Melodies
arranged for the Concertina by Carlo Minasi (1817-91), who taught piano and concertina in London, and published some of the earliest known tutorials and musical arrangements for concertinas.
The Compleat Tutor for the Fife
Published in 1760, this was a major collection for military fife & drum corps in the UK, on the Continent, and in the Colonies that were soon to be in revolt against their new king. An original copy has been restored at put online at IMSLP, for the benefit of all modern flute and piccolo players.
Michael Dabney's Twelve Minuets and Twelve Dances
Published around 1760, this collection is in the common "24 Dances for the Year ..." format, though not actually labelled as such. It's a typical small booklet of the time, designed to fit in a musician's instrument case or a dance teacher's bag. The tunes here include a bass line with figured-bass chords.
... Dances for the Year ...
This is a transcription of tunes from several series of booklets with this sort of title, published in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by various editors and publishers, mostly in London. They were small, to fit in a dancing master's pocket or a musician's instrument case, and were distributed to all the British Empire.
the Edinburgh Repository of Music
This is three combined volumes, published in Edinburgh ca. 1818 The tunes are from all over the British Isles, plus a few from other countries. There are about 360 pages of music, with about 2 tunes per (small) page.
the Everyday Song Book
This book is best known as the origin of the most-sung song in the world, "Happy Birthday", written by Patty Smith Hill and Mildred J. Hill in 1893 and published by Clayton F. Summy Co. in 1912. A copyright claim existed for nearly a century, until in 2015 a US federal judge ruled that the copyright (then claimed by Warner/Chappel) was invalid. Part of the story was a smudged-out, illegible line of text in the only known copy of the original book, in Warner/Chappel's library. A copy was found in a library with the smudged text legible, and it showed that the publisher (the Cable Company, Chicago 1927) hadn't gotten ownership of the copyright, but only permission to republish the song. The book contains 223 songs, many of them well-known at the time and today, in arrangements intended for use in teaching music to young children.
Fifty Old English Folk Dance Airs
I had a copy of this 1938 collection of well-known English tunes. I asked on a few online forums if anyone had transcribed its tunes, and got (multiple) copies of most of them via email. I edited them to be closer to the versions in the book, and transcribed the few remaining tunes. I should go through them and add chords some day ...
the Fraser Collection
Yet another important Scottish collection, by Captain Simon Fraser, 1816.
Gallini - A New Collection of Forty-four Cotillons
Published in London around 1755, this is a collection of French-style Cotillons and Country Dances.
The Gentleman's Magazine
Published in London from 1731 to 1922, and recently revived, this magazine covered any topics that the "educated public" of the time might find interesting. This included dancing, and there were occasionally dance tunes published, sometimes together with a brief description of the dance. They are difficult to find, since it requires scanning through hundreds of pages of each year's issues, looking for music notation. I found a few of them and transcribed them. If you know of any that I don't have here, let me know
Hamilton's Universal Tune-Book
Published in Edinburgh in 1846, this 2-volume collection contains over 1000 tunes, many of them well-known. Some of the tunes have a 2nd (harmony) line and/or a bass line.
The Hibernian Muse
Published in London in the late 18th century by the Thompsons, contains many tunes that are familiar to the Irish traditional crowd, though sometimes the versions are different from what is currently played, and the titles are often different. The tune has a bass line for each tune, often simple and basic, but sometimes quite melodic. Many tunes are attributed to "Carolan", but few other composers are mentioned.
Elias Howe - The Musician's Companion
Published in Boston in the 1840s, this 3-volume collection contains several hundred tunes, many of them well-known, plus a number of "setts" for cotill(i)ons, aka quadrilles or square dances. Some of the tunes have a 2nd (harmony) line and/or a bass line.
the John French Collection
John French (1753-1803) was a fiddler and composer from Ayr, Scotland. This collection of tunes mostly written by him was published about the time of his death, by Gow & Shepherd in Edinburgh, apparently to earn some money for his widow and children. Some of the tunes have become part of the Scottish repertoire, though often with different names and with many changes by other musicians.
Hill Country Tunes
A collection of fiddle tunes from western Pennsylvania in the 1920s and 1930s, collected by the folkorist, musicologist and field researcher Sam Bayard in 1943.
Kerr's Merry Melodies
James Kerr published four collections by this name in the 1880s, in Glasgow. They contain a total of around 1700 tunes, including many that are well-known today. (This collection is currently "in progress", as I find transcriptions of the tunes, or transcribe them myself.)
Köhler's Violin Repository
Ernst Köhler lived in Glasgow and published three volumes of tunes in the 1880s, with W.B. Laybourn (about whom little seems to be known) as the editor. The tunes are mostly Scottish, but a lot of Irish and English tunes are included. This collection has only the melodies, and rarely lists sources or composers, but is a good reference for dance tunes of the late 19th century in the British Isles.
the Landrin "Potpourri" Collection
Landrin's "Potpourri françois des contre-danse ancienne tel quil se danse chez la Reine ..." was published in London in 1760. It contains a dozen quadrille sets, each with 9 parts, and a tune for each. Dance instructions are included on the facing page, but I haven't transcribed these. These dances were quite popular in England and in the Colonies. Some of the tunes are supposedly ancestral to later British-Isles and (North) American tunes, but the connection isn't very obvious.
the Man of Feeling, or the Gentlemans Musical Repository
by Gaetano Brandi, London, 1803.
This is a selection of songs and instrumental airs from "fashionable" music of the time, suitable for parlor concerts, dances, and other such aristocratic events of the time. There is a photocopy at archive.org.
A Musical Souvenir of the Royal Pavilion - Brighton
This is from a pamphlet handed out to visitors at the Royal Pavillion at Brighton, in Sussex, England. It was posted to the ECD (English Country Dance) list November 29, 2015, and contains a sample of 6 dances with their tunes which were current during the "Regency" period of 1811-1820.
the Nelson Music Collection
by Newton F. Tolman and K. Dep. Gilbert, and transcribed to ABC by Ralph Palmer. This is a mid-20th-century collection of traditional New England dance tunes.
Northumbrian Minstrelsy
by J Collingwood Bruce & John Stokoe (1882).
Originally Mine
by George Meikle, the leader of the Lothian Scottish Dance Band, editor of the RSCDS's Originally Ours collection, and composer of the tunes here. George found that some of his tunes were online in mangled form, including incorrect titles, so he sent this collection to me in PDF, and asked if I could put it online in ABC form. The title is his, too.
the O'Farrell Project
The "O'Farrell Pocket Companion for the Irish or Union Pipes" (OVPC) is a four-volume collection published in London in 1805-1810. It is one of the earliest known collections of specifically Irish tunes, though a good number are actually of Scottish origin. The transcription was done by Bill Black, who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
the O'Neill's Project
is the result of the first known project to transcribed all of a major historical collection (O'Neill's "1850") into ABC. This is my copy of Dan Beimborn's original web site that housed the project. This may be the largest single ABC transcription project so far (but I'd like to hear of others).
Old English Country Dances
The only known copy of this book is in the British Library, and there is a scanned copy of it online, at Google Books. It was published by Frank Kidson in London in 1890.
James Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion
is a collection published in 12 booklets from the 1740s to 1760s. They were also published as 2 "volumes", each containing the music in 6 of the original booklets. Early versions of a lot of the "traditional Scottish" repertoire can be found in this collection.
This collection started as a backup copy of the version housed at the Ceolas archive, in the Playford.abc file.. Since then, I've collected more Playford tunes from various sources, and added a few transcriptions of my own. There's also a sub-directory for John Playford's 1700 Collection of Original Scotch-Tunes, claimed to be the first published collection of all-Scottish tunes.
John Pringle's Collections
A Collection of Reels, Strathspeys and Jigs was published by John Pringle in London in 1801. Pringle composed the majority of the tunes, but also included versions of tunes by other composers, and a few traditional tunes without a known composer. All the tunes include a bass line, which is somewhat unusual for this time. Most of the bass lines are very simple, even trivial, but a few are true counter-melodies.
Robert Purdie's "Tom Thumb" booklet
In about 1810, Robert Purdie in Edinburgh printed this 2-page booklet containing five tunes (2 reels and 3 strathspeys).
Rinnci na hEireann
This is my transcription of the tunes in the book of Irish dances published by G.Shirmer Inc in New York in 1925. This book contains instructions for 25 dances in square, circle and longways formations. It has apparently been out of print for a long time, but a friend had a copy. Some day, I may also get around to typing in the dance descriptions. Meanwhile, this is an interesting set of old versions of a lot of well-known tunes.
the Ryan/Cole collection
William Bradbury Ryan's "MAMMOTH COLLECTION of more than 1050 Reels and Jigs, Hornpipes, Clogs, Walk Arounds, Slip Jigs, Essences, Strathspeys, Highland Flings and Contra Dances with Figures" was published in Boston in 1883 by Elias Howe. In 1940, the M.M.Cole company published "1000 Fiddle Tunes", the same collection reorganized somewhat, with no credit to the original editor or publisher. More recently, Mel Bay has republished a very nice wire-bound edition of the original, edited by Patrick Sky. Back in 2000, I found that I had transcribed a lot of its tunes to ABC, and mentioned on a few lists that I was working on completing the job. Several people joined in and contributed tunes, making it another of the early ABC transcription projects done by a team of people.
the Robert Petrie Collections
Steve Wyrick transcribed the three Robert Petrie collections in 2004 and 2005, and sent me a copy of each as he finished it. This is a significant Scottish collection from around 1800.
is collected tunes from various old collections of Scottish Country Dance music, transcribed by various musicians, and sent to me for inclusion here. We've only made a start on this, but the collection grows slowly with time. (Contributions are welcome; it's always good to have such things mirrored on more than one web site.)
Skillern & Challoner's Collection of Popular Country Dances
is a set of 4-page leaflets, each with 6-8 tunes and dances, published in London in the early years of the 19th century.
Walter Rainstorp's Commonplace Book
Walter Rainstorp was an English musician in the late 1700s. He produced a "Commonplace Book", a manuscript containing tunes that he played for dancing. Most of the tunes include a description of a dance.
Sliabh Luachra on Parade
Patrick Cavanagh sent me this collection in 2013, and suggested I might like to put it online. I don't know anything about who produced or transcribed the collection. Maybe I should try to find out ...
N. Stewart's "A Select Collection of Airs, Jigs, Marches and Reels"
published in Edinburgh about 1784. This is a collection of 117 tunes produced an sold at Stewart's shop in Edinburgh. It's a mixture of airs, dance tunes, marching-band tunes, etc., some from stage shows of the time. Many of the tunes have French titles, and are suitable for quadrilles. The shop was a bookstore and lending library, and also sold, loaned, repaired and tuned musical instruments. So far, not much seems to be known about Stewart, not even his first name.
Straight & Skillern's 204 Favourite Country Dances
published in London in or about 1775. Little seems to be known about the publishers, Thomas Straight and Thomas Skillern. They ran a music publishing business for about 10 years (1768-1778) which published an annual series of "24 Country Dances for the Year 17__", plus this combined edition near the end of their partnership. They also republished numerous earlier collections from other sources.
Thomas Bray's Country Dances 1699
Several local dance leaders had given me copies of pages from this book, to learn the tunes, so I borrowed a copy and trascribed all the tunes.
Thomas Craig's "Empire Violin Collection of Hornpipes"
Mike Hirst put a photocopy of this online at FARNE, and later it appeared at IMSLP; then Peter Dunk made an ABC transcription, which he sent to me and several other people. It dates from about 1890, and has some very familiar hornpipe tunes and a number of tunes known only locally in the northeast of England.
Tom Anderson's Collections
Tom Anderson has been the main collector of the traditional music of Shetland. At the moment, I only have one of his books in ABC form, Haand me doon the fiddle.
Thompson's Compleat Collection
Thompson's Compleat Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances was published by Peter Thompson in London, in four volumes dated 1757, 1765, 1773 and 1780. Of course, it's nowhere near "compleat", but there are 800 tunes in the collection.
John Treat's Gamut for the Fifes
John Treat was a musician who left behind a handwritten copybook titled "Gamut for the Fifes" that is dated to 1779. He is mentiond as living in Durham, though whether it's the Durham in northern England or in eastern Connecticut isn't clear.
the Viola Ruth Collection
Viola Ruth lived in Arizona for the first half of the 20th century. She was an important dance fiddler and long-time state fiddle champion. She published a number of tune collections showing her style of playing, and left copies of them plus her music notebooks to the state historical museum, who have put images of much of her material online.
John Walsh's collections
Starting around 1740, a number of collections by various names were published by John Walsh in London. These were compiled by a number of different editors, and they rarely gave any information about their sources. These are among the earliest known "Scottish" collections that include both music and dance descriptions.
Jean White's "100 Popular Hornpipes, Reels, Jigs and Country Dances"
This book was published in Boston, in 1880, and is in the US Library of Congress collection.
William Winter's "Quantocks" collection
William Winter (1774-1861) was a village shoemaker and fiddler in West Bagborough in Somerset, a county in the West of England. He compiled his personal collection of over 450 tunes in 1848-1850. In 1960 the tune book surfaced in a second hand bookshop in London. It was acquired by Geoff Rye of the English Folk Dance and Song Society and deposited in the library of Halsway Manor Traditional Music and Dance Centre in Crowcombe, Somerset. It was edited and published by Geoff Woolfe. It contains versions of familiar tunes, plus many unique tunes.
Thomas Wilson and William Harmony dance flyer
Dancing master Thomas Wilson and musician William Harmony produced this 2-page flyer in 1812, containing four tunes pluse two dances (one simple and one more advanced) for each tune.
the Daniel Wright collections
Daniel Wright was the name of two publishers (father and son) in London from about 1710 to 1740. They published a wide variety of music, much apparently stolen from other publishers and printed without attribution. They printed the earliest known versions of many tunes that are well known now.
All of these collections would benefit from proofreading by anyone with a printed copy. If you find errors, send me email. Also, if you have an ABC transcription of another historic collection, send me email, and I may be able to mirror it.

Here are some other sites that are helping find and organize the effort to get all this old music (and dance) information online:

Here are a few known sites that are putting old musical publications online: