A General Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland (1796)

by Edward Bunting

Edward Bunting (1773–1843) was nineteen years old when he was engaged by the organizers of the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792 to write down the old tunes that would be performed there. Ten harpers came to the festival to play their music, and Bunting began what would become a life–long passion of collecting Irish music.

Link to the Music

Edward Bunting published three separate books of music, arranged and adapted for the piano–forte. The first collection, reproduced here, was published in 1796. It was printed in London by Preston & Son, but was shortly afterward pirated by a publisher in Dublin, undercutting the genuine volume.[1] The title page was copied precisely, with the exception of the publisher’s information at the bottom of the page.

The rest of the pirated book, however, has several significant differences. The preface is difficult to read, having been reduced to fit on fewer pages and set with inferior typeface. One modern re–print of this volume, regretably utilizing the pirated version, went so far as to include a resetting of the preface on the grounds that it was not “easily readable”.[2]

Furthermore, while the notation in the original was engraved with great care, the pirate version is so poorly set that the notes often do not line up properly between the parts, there are more than a few errors, and the 36 pages of music from the original are condensed into 31. There is thus little correspondence of tunes and page numbers between the two imprints. For this reason, the page references for the the genuine edition of Bunting’s 1796 Ancient Music of Ireland as presented here may differ from sources that may have inadvertently cited the pirated version.

Bunting’s later publications Ancient Music of Ireland (1840) and A General Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland (1809) are available here on WireStrungHarp.com.

Please follow this Catalogue link to return to the author index on the Library page.

[1] Charlotte Milligan Fox. Annals of the Irish Harpers. Smith, Elder & Co., 1911. p. 23-24 Annals of the Irish Harpers is available to view in our Library.

[2] As printed in the un-numbered introductory pages of The Ancient Music of Ireland: The Bunting Collection published by Waltons Publishing of Dublin, Ireland in 1968 and 2002.

Submitted by Cynthia Cathcart, 15 February, 2012.

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