Moffat’s Minstrelsy of Ireland, 1890s

The Scottish musicologist Alfred Edward Moffat (Edinburgh 1866 – London 1950) was a highly regarded scholar and editor of music, with a specialisation in early British composers for the violin.

Having studied music in Berlin, he had professional connections with German publishing houses, and also edited for the London publishers Augener & Co. and Bayley & Ferguson, between about 1894 and 1907, some thousand national songs in a Minstrelsy of… series . These volumes typically comprised 200 songs, and represented respectively Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales, and the Scottish Highlands. Most appeared in different undated editions in the 1890s and early 1900s, and were reprinted in the 1970s in the United States.

Moffat’s Minstrelsy of Ireland: 206 Irish Songs Adapted to Their Traditional Airs, reproduced below in its fourth and final edition, first appeared in 1898 (undated but with a preface of 1897) with three further editions produced by the early 1900s. The original edition comprised 200 songs, arranged by Moffat for voice and piano, but six more were added in the third edition.

The particular value of Moffat’s Minstrelsy of Ireland now resides in the pioneering historical notes that accompany each song, and which involved him in original library research in Ireland. They show a wide knowledge of early Irish printed collections of music, and also make connections with early British collections. His preface acknowledges the assistance he received from Irish scholars such as P.W. Joyce, and from British scholars such as Frank Kidson of Leeds and John Glen of Edinburgh. Alfred Moffat also edited in the early 1900s various other undated Irish collections, such as his Gems of Irish Melody and Irish National Songs, and items of Irish sheet music.

For permission to reproduce this digitised edition and for other help, the Irish Traditional Music Archive is indebted to Alfred Moffat’s great-granddaughter Tricia Rawlingson Plant. 

ITMA would welcome the donation of other materials of this kind which are not yet in its collections (check our catalogues here), or of their loan for copying.

NC & MG, 1 February 2012