Bunting 1

Edward Bunting, A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music, Vol. One, 1797

A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music, Containing a Variety of Admired Airs Never Before Published, and also the Compositions of Conolan and Carolan; Collected from the Harpers &c. in the Different Provinces of Ireland, and Adapted for the Piano-Forte, with a Prefatory Introduction by Edward Bunting. Vol. 1. Price 10s.6d. Printed & Sold by Preston & Son at their Wholesale Warehouses 97 Strand.  [London: 1797]

As is well known, Edward Bunting’s A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music of 1797 had its origins in a commission given to a young Armagh-born classical organist and pianist Edward Bunting (1773–1843), by the organisers of the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792, to notate and preserve the music of the last of the professional Irish harpers. Bunting made this task his lifework and published two further similar volumes in 1809 and 1840.

The 66 interactive music scores presented here are from the original undated edition of the Collection produced in London in 1797 (and later) by the firm of Preston and Son. A facsimile of this edition, with contextual notes, is available here.

NC, BB, TH & JS, 13 October 2015

Postscript

The generally accepted date of publication for this undated volume has long been 1796, although there have been some indications that it may have been published in 1797. The former is the date that Bunting himself retrospectively assigned to it in his manuscripts and in his final publication, The Ancient Music of Ireland Arranged for the Piano Forte (Dublin: 1840). It has therefore been the date hitherto accepted by ITMA. However, recently published research by Dr Peter Downey, former head of music at St Mary’s University College, Belfast, has conclusively shown that 1797 was the year in which the volume as known was actually first published.

The detailed primary evidence for this conclusion is contained in Dr Downey’s book Edward Bunting and the Ancient Irish Music: The Publication History of A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music… Adapted for the Piano-Forte (London: Preston & Son) (Lisburn: 2017; ISBN 978 0 9955858 2 9; 71 pp.) which builds both on newly uncovered and well-known information sources. The book also traces the publication history of Bunting’s second volume, A General Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland, Arranged for the Piano-Forte…, first published in London in 1809.

Briefly, the confusion between the two dates of 1796 and 1797 has been shown to have arisen from the actions of Bunting himself. In May 1796 he registered with Stationers’ Hall in London 28 engraved tunes of an unpublished draft version of what finally became the 66 published tunes of A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music… He registered the published volume in Stationers’ Hall in October 1797, but subsequently referred to it himself as having been published in 1796.

A copy of Edward Bunting and the Ancient Irish Music: The Publication History of A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music… Adapted for the Piano-Forte (London: Preston & Son), kindly donated by Dr Downey, is now available for consultation in ITMA.

NC, 30 November 2017

Tunes in this collection