How to Show Gratitude to a Patron – Nathaniel Demonstrates Best Practice

To the Noblemen and Gentlemen of the Caledonian Hunt

Writes Nathaniel Gow in 1819, at the head of his latest book, The Beauties of Niel Gow.  (His famous father wrote a lot of great tunes, so why not publish the best of them again and get some profit from them?)

The Editor would be wanting in candour and gratitude were he to omit, in presenting this work to the Public, to acknowledge the uniform and marked patronage his Father and Family (himself in particular) have received from the Noblemen and Gentlemen of the Caledonian Hunt, and how much it was owing to their flattering approbation that they were encouraged to make any attempt to add their Compositions to the Stock of National Scottish Music, Composed prior to their time.

It is that approbation which now induces him to offer the present publication under the Title of


The first piece in a collection often has a special relevance and implies an extra compliment paid to the dedicatee, so here we have Niel Gow’s Lamentation for Jas. Moray Esqr. of Abercarney. A footnote explains,

Mr Moray was the early and kind patron of the Author.  The loss which Society sustained in the Death of that Gentleman was the cause of the production of this truly pathetic and beautiful Air.

We should, of course, remember that ‘pathetic’ meant ‘full of pathos’ and not the derogatory connotations which the word carries today!

When Karen was checking bibliographic details of the collection, she discovered that the Whittaker Library in the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland does actually have a copy of The Beauties of Niel Gow, but not in one of the original editions.  The Whittaker Library has a London reprint by C. Jefferys of 67 Berners Street, distributed by our own  Bayley & Ferguson, of 54 Queen Street Glasgow and 2 Great Marlborough Street, London.  Considering Charles W. Jefferys had been writing and translating lyrics since around 1835, and latterly also publishing light music until about 1880, Niel Gow’s Beauties had been on the go for well over half a century!  It was more recently reprinted in Harrogate by Celtic Music in 1983, and in Pasadena, CA, by Fiddlers Crossing, circa 1990.  His patrons would have been proud…

Published by Authority, in 1792

Karen has been trawling for digitized copies of Gow strathspey publications, eagerly hunting for more ingratiating dedications.  To no avail, so far – she’ll have to go and look at “real” copies of the books that haven’t been digitized! However, that doesn’t mean she didn’t unearth interesting nuggets of information.

In 1792, Niel Gow published his A Third Collection of Strathspey Reels &c for the Piano-forte, Violin and Violoncello.  Dedicated on the title-page to The Marchioness of Tweeddale, there is no additional prefatory commentary on the first page.  But the first interesting fact is that the harp isn’t listed amongst the instruments.  Indeed, a tiny little footnote on p.1 whispers, ‘NB. The small Notes throughtout the Book shows the Chords for the Piano-Forte.’  (Although the piano was gaining popularity, it wasn’t etirely ‘bye-bye harp’, for it was still being mentioned in the Gows’ Complete Repository books.)

And the second interesting thing is this: apparently for the first time, he made a copyright statement at the bottom of the first page:

“The Author thinks proper to mention, that the Tunes which are not Composed by him are Published by Authority of the Different Composers, which has induced him to secure the Book in Stationers Hall According to Act of Parliament.”

And sure enough, Michael Kassler’s index, Music Entries at Stationers’ Hall 1710-1818 shows the book listed there on 7 March 1792.  The amount of music being submitted had started to rise significantly after 1784, and maybe by this time the Gows had decided it was time to jump on the bandwagon.  However, there isn’t another Gow publication listed until 11 January 1800, when Niel’s son Nathaniel submitted Lady Mary Ramsay’s Strathspey, and the Earl of Dalhousie’s Reel. A new medley, danced at the Edinburgh Assembly, etc., etc., Composed by Nathaniel Gow. To which is added, Three favorite Tunes.  Again, on 3 June 1801, Niel Gow’s A Fourth Collection of Strathspey Reels, etc was listed in the Stationers’ Hall book.

The Gows must have submitted their publications somewhat spasmodically.  Maybe the London brother, John, took a whole bundle at once, for Parts 2 and 3 of the Repository along with the 4th and 5th Collection of Strathspeys were all listed in Stationers’ Hall on 6 October 1815.

Kassler’s listing ends in 1818, because one of his sources was music impresario William Hawes’ manuscript, ‘A List of Music Entered at Stationers’ Hall, from January 1, 1789, to January 1, 1819′. (see Kassler (2004), vii-xxviii)  And this means that the whole Gow publishing history remains, to date, only partially documented.  The Bass Culture project will amplify it to some extent, but the full story remains to be told in future!

Nathaniel Gow’s Small Share of Trouble

Having transcribed the dedications to Niel and Nathaniel’s Complete Repository yesterday, you might have guessed that Karen’s twitching fingers wouldn’t have been able to keep away from further Gow publications in an idle moment this evening.  At first glance, it seems that Nathaniel might have been the instigator of these dedications – certainly, there was no interesting commentary in Niel Gow’s early collections.

But then, around 1810, Nathaniel decided to branch out, producing The Vocal Melodies of Scotland, dedicated to His Grace The Duke of Buccleuch & Queensberry, Arranged For The Piano Forte or Harp, Violin & Violoncello.  This in itself is interesting – he has the pianoforte named first, but he hasn’t yet dropped the violin and violoncello.  There’s no flowery dedication to His Grace, but the first page of song-tunes (no lyrics) alludes to the Gows’ earlier publications of strathspeys and reels – and, again, to their pursuit of Conformity!  Note that just as Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum had as subtitle, ‘our ancient national airs’, so Nathaniel Gow here alludes to ‘Our Original Native Melodies’.  (Who said nationalism was anything new?!)  The emboldened type is copied from Gow’s own typeset:-

From the marked approbation with which the Public honoured Niel Gow and Sons’ Editions of Strathspeys and Reels, in adopting their Setts as Standard, the Editor is induced to hope that the following Collection of our Original Native Melodies may be favourably received, and should it have, even in any degree, the effect of producing a Conformity in the playing of these Beautiful Simple Airs, he will be amply repaid for his small share of trouble.

Niel and Nathaniel Gow’s Controlling Influence?

You might wonder why anyone would bother transcribing the old-fashioned, sycophantic dedications that appear at the start of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century national song or dance collections!  However, if you strip away the grovelling, boot-licking protestations of admiration, you’re left with three thoughts.

  1. Patronage was really important!
  2. There was a preoccupation with presenting this repertoire in what was perceived as its original and unadorned simplicity.
  3. At some level there was the idea that one could persuade everyone to adhere to this impossible ideal.

It’s important to understand the context in which collections were compiled, and that’s what this paratextual material essentially reveals.

For example, we share with you here the four dedications offered by Niel and Nathaniel Gow to their Complete Repository of Slow Strathspeys and Dances.  (That was the title of Parts 1, 3 and 4.  Part 2 was Complete Repository of Scots Tunes, Strathspeys, Jigs and Dances).  See how, in Part First, the Gows claimed to be publishing this repertoire ‘free from the Corruption of Whim or Caprice’; by Part Second, they were striving for ‘Conformity in playing these tunes’; and by Part Fourth in 1817, they were expressing satisfaction that they’d achieved their aim of getting everyone to play ‘the same notes of every tune’.  A vain hope, we suggest – especially considering the footnote stating that the “setts” of these tunes were different to anything every published before.  (And remember that the term ‘Amateurs’ was not derogatory at this time – it meant people who could indulge themselves in their love of music without having to be paid money to play it.)


[From the 2nd edition, GB-Gu Ca11-y.30, p.1].  Part the First.  “TO HER GRACE the DUTCHESS of GORDON.  The Publishers of the Following Repository of Original Scots Slow Strathspeys and Dances, would be wanting in the Duty they owe to your Grace, were they not to embrace this Opportunity to Acknowledge the very great Obligation they lay under to your Grace, and how much it is owing, to your Grace’s kind patronage, that so great a preference has hitherto been given to the Setts of Scots Strathspeys and Reels published by Niel Gow & Sons.

“In presenting the present to the Public, which is the first time those tunes in the Stile as played by Niel Gow and Sons have been in print, it has been the Object of the Publishers to preserve them for the Amateurs of that Stile of Music in their native Simplicity, and free from the Corruption of Whim or Caprice, and the Publishers humbly hope they will be received by your Grace and their numerous other Friends and the Public at large as a Testimony of their profound Gratitude, and Respect, and we have the Honor to be your Graces much Obliged and Devoted Humble Servants. Niel Gow & Sons.

[At foot of p.1]: “As the Tunes now Published differ more or less from any Sett formerly published the Publishers have entered them in Stationers Hall agreeable to act of Parliament.”

[NB the 3rd edition, ‘corrected and improved by Nath: Gow’, resets the words and modernises ‘Stile’ to ‘Style’, but otherwise the dedication and footnote remain unaltered.]


And some blatant piracy?  In 1811, Glaswegian Malcolm Keith brought out a very close copy of Gow’s first Complete Repository.  His dedication was more egalitarian – TO THE PUBLIC – but clearly based on Gow, as were the tunes that followed.  If you’re going to steal someone’s thunder, you might as well do it with gusto!  Here’s Keith’s dedication:-

The Publisher of the following Repository of Original Scots Slow Strathspeys and Dances, would be wanting in the duty he owes to them and his Friends, were he not to embrace this Opportunity to acknowledge the very great Obligation he lies under for the kind patronage and liberal encouragement he has formerly obtained.
In presenting the present Repository to the Public, it has been the object of the Publisher to preserve them in their original native stile and simplicity free from the corruption of Whim or Caprice; the Publisher therefore humbly hopes that it will be received by his Friends and the Public:
To whom he remains, with the utmost Esteem & Gratitude,
their most Obliged and Obt. Humble Servant


[From the 2nd edition, GB-Gu Ca11-y.30, p.1].  Part the Second.  “To Her Grace the Duchess of Buccleugh.  With the greatest deference and respect, we lay this Second Volume of our Repository before your Grace and the public.

“The ORIGINAL SCOTS STRATHSPEYS, REELS, and JIGS, of which this Collection Consist, are brought forward with a view, to serve as a STANDARD of those NATIONAL TUNES and DANCES; for, we Cannot avoid mentioning, that in every part of SCOTLAND where we have occasionally been, and from every observation we were able to make, have not ONCE met with TWO PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS who play the SAME notes of ANY tune!  This being the Cace [sic], the Standard now proposed, will we hope, appear abundantly apparent; and that a CONFORMITY in playing those tunes, may with great propriety be adopted.  We are encouraged to entertain this idea, from the favourable reception which our former publications have been received by the Public, whose approprobation, with that of your GRACE we shall always esteem, and be proud of acknowledge. [sic]

“In the hope, that our efforts to add to the Stock of NATIONAL MUSIC, will have a happy tendency, we send this Collection forth into the world; & will deem ourselves highly gratified to hear, that it meets with approving reception.

“We have the honour to be with profound respect, your Grace’s most obedient, much obliged, and very humble Servants.  Niel Gow & Sons.”

[At foot of p.1]: “As the Tunes now Published differ more or less from any Sett formerly published the Publishers have entered them in Stationers Hall agreeable to Act of Parliament.”

[NB the 3rd edition, ‘corrected and improved by Nath: Gow’, resets the words, corrects ‘proud of’ to ‘proud to’ and ‘honour’ to ‘honor’, but otherwise the dedication and footnote remain unaltered.]

[From the 2nd edition, GB-Gu Ca11-y.30, p.1].  Part the Third.  “To the Right Honourable THE COUNTESS of LOUDON and MOIRA.  This THIRD PART of the REPOSITORY of Scotch STRATHSPEYS, REELS, and JIGS, is humbly inscribed by the Publishers, as the only token in their power whereby to acknowledge the high estimation in which they hold the Patronage and good wishes of your Ladyshire,    AS they are proud to acknowledge the no-less distinguished Patronage and generous kindness at an early period conferred on their family by your late worthy illustrious Father, Enhanc’d as all these considerations are by your connection with a Nobleman the boast of his profession, who since his arrival in this Country have been most assiduously attentive to its welfare, and shewn a great particularity to its music.

“In giving this our Complete Repository to the Public it was our wish to conciliate and procure a conformity in the stile and manner of playing those National tunes and Dances, Having succeeded so far by our two first parts as to obtain the approbation of Amateurs, as well as of professional Musicians, WE now venture to submit to the Public this our third part of the Complete Repository, and we humbly trust our Endeavours to conciliate an uniformity in playing those tunes will soon be Established in every part of the Island.

“We have the honour to be with profound respect, your Ladyships much obliged, and devoted humble Servants.  Niel Gow & Son’s [sic]”

[At foot of p.1]: “As the Tunes now Published differ more or less from any Sett formerly published the Publishers have entered them in Stationers Hall agreeable to Act of Parliament.”

[NB the 3rd edition, ‘corrected and improved by Nath: Gow’, resets the words, and corrects ‘Son’s’ to ‘Sons’, but otherwise the dedication and footnote remain unaltered.]

[From the IMSLP 1st edition, GB-Gu Ca11-y.30, p.1].  Part Fourth.  TO THE NOBILITY AND GENTRY of SCOTLAND.  The Publishers of the FOURTH Part of the REPOSITORY of ORIGINAL SCOTS SLOW STRATHSPEYS and DANCES would be wanting in their respect to the NOBILITY and GENTRY, were they to omit the present opportunity of acknowledging their obligations to them for the very great encouragement the three former parts of the Repository met with, and of expressing their satisfaction on their Original Aim being obtained, namely, that of conformity being observed throughout the Island, by Amateurs, as well as Professional People, playing the same notes of every tune, without the confusion which prevailed previous to the appearance of the Repository, they trust that the present will be found in every respect equal to the former and hope to be gratified in seeing it favorably received.  [Signed] for Niel Gow & Sons [Nath Gow’s signature here]

[At foot of p.1]: “As the Sets of the old Tunes here given differ from those formerly published, and as this 4th Part not only contain many Ancient Airs that never before appeared but also a number of new Tunes Composed purposely for this work. – The Book is therefore entered in Stationers’ Hall agreeable to Act of Parliament.”

It’s worth noting that Nathaniel Gow was riding the same “conformity” hobby-horse with his Vocal Melodies of Scotland collection, too, with the first page talking of aiming for ‘Conformity in the playing of these Beautiful Simple Airs’.  Paradoxically, a rather fussy version of the Flowers of the Forest appears immediately underneath these words!


An Essential Blog – The Fiddle in the Scottish Folk Music Revival

Here’s a very useful blog by Stuart Eydmann, “established during his term as Traditional Artist in Residence 2013/14, in Celtic and Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh”:-

The Fiddle in the Scottish Folk Music Revival.

For a start, there’s a posting about portraits of Niel Gow … and another about Charles Bayne, Dundonian dancie …

But Who Were They? Bass Culture Goes Biographical

We’ll be giving some biographical information about “our” fiddle tune composers and compilers, but we’re not biographers per se.  Therefore, we’re just noting where our information was drawn from.  It’s mainly from some very obvious places!  Here’s the beginning of a list …

  • Baptie, David, Musical Scotland: Past and Present (1894)
  • Bulloch, John Malcolm, William Marshall: the Scots composer, 1748-1833 (1933)
  • Cowie, Moyra, William Marshall : the Scots composer, 1748-1833 (1999)
  • The Glen Collection of Scottish Dance Music (1891 and 1895 volumes)
  • Gore, Charles, The Scottish Fiddle Music Index (1994)
  • Gore, Charles, The Scottish Music Index [digitized reissue of the above]
  • Murdoch, A, The fiddle in Scotland: comprising sketches of Scotch fiddlers and fiddle makers (1888)
  • Oxford Music Online


Rolling Stones or Snowballs? The Countdown …

They say that a rolling stone gathers no moss. On the other hand, a snowman starts with a snowball, and a pearl with a grain of sand.

Last week’s Bass Culture plenary faced the reality of our October 2015 deadline hurtling towards us with increasing speed (not so much a rolling stone as an avalanche), as we contemplated what needed to be done before that date.

We looked with interest at another project involving MEI – the Lost Voices Project (“Companion resource to Les livres de Chansons Nouvelles de Nicolas Du Chemin (1549–1568), hosted by the Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance in Tours, France”), in which Zoltan has also had a hand.  It’s great to see MEI in use, and to begin to imagine what our own functionality might look like.

So what do we need to achieve?  There’s the website (  Karen has input the relevant data into our BIG, detailed spreadsheet for the books that have been digitized, and now needs to edit the main spreadsheet – much longer but not quite as wide!

We’re still hoping to get some more incipits transcribed, and David and Barnaby are planning recordings, with David looking forward to the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention in Cape Breton this October.  And of course, there’s also the necessary planning to keep the whole website running after our project officially ends.

Does that sound busy?  Too true!  So with that, and preferring the snowball metaphor to that of a rolling stone, it’s time to get back to that thumping bass …

Just a wee comment – there’s just a holding page at at the present time of writing. But do bookmark it, because that’s where it will all be happening when we launch the website!



Miss Marple Turns Fiddle Detective

Sometimes a question just leaps out at you, doesn’t it?  Today, we’ve discovered that it is very hard to trace copies of  Flowers of Scottish Melody, a book of tunes compiled by J. Murdoch Henderson, who was a serious expert in Scottish fiddle collection bibliography.  It doesn’t look anything special from the cover, but if Henderson had a hand in it, then there ought to be more copies in libraries.  There are very few.  Indeed, a reprint was made some 30 years ago, and there aren’t even any of those available for purchase. If you see one, do tell us.  (Glasgow University Library and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland could both do with a copy!)   That was our first piece of detective work, with no fruitful results.

The next was easier.  Who was Mrs Garden of Troup (Troop)?  There are enough collections with strathspeys written for Mrs, or Miss Garden of Troup.  Stuart Eydmann leapt to our rescue.  There’s plenty of information available in The Fiddler’s Companion – an online resource that MUST go into our web-resource list eventually –  (The Fiddler’s Companion)

However, there are also other places to look for information, and Stuart reminded us that municipal archives often hold masses of information.  In this instance, the city of Aberdeen has a huge archive of material about the Garden family of Troup.  We don’t really have time to pursue this, but isn’t it great to know there’s so much out there?




Finding Fiddle Books

Do we hear the plaintive question, “When are you going to tell us where all these fiddle books are kept?”

Our website will list loads of locations, but as I’ve mentioned, somewhere we’ll also have to have a page of useful links to other information sources.

  • RISM is a huge bibliographic resource listing printed and manuscript materials.  The one you need for early printed fiddle collections is the book for printed sources pre-1800 (Einzeldrücke vor 1800) by the Joint Committee for the Publication of the International Inventory of Musical Sources, edited by Karlheinz Schlager) is a great multi-volume resource – in its big, fat books on library shelves, or in CD-rom format.  These books listing printed sources pre-1800 are not available online, though.
  • If you come across old references to BUCEM, do take them seriously.  They’re another bibliographic tool available in reference libraries.  The British Union Catalogue of Early Music printed before the year 1801, edited by Edith B. Schnapper, comes in two volumes.  It’s old now – it was published in 1957.  However, if BUCEM says a library has something, go check it out in a modern resource, whether RISM or via online catalogues.  Fiddle books from the eighteenth century are precious commodities, so they’re probably still going to be in the same libraries, even if the shelf-number might have changed.  BUCEM was “the” bible for dating early music collections for many years and is still a useful place to look.
  • Most people in university circles ought to know of – the union catalogue of all UK university and national libraries.  Anyone can consult it.  If you’re not in higher education, it’s still worth contacting libraries directly to ask if you can pay a visit.  Early fiddle books are kept for reference in special collections, but you may be allowed to visit.  (Be warned – you won’t be allowed to use a pen, so take a pencil and rubber as well as your laptop or tablet!)
  • Be prepared for the rather arcane and obscure procedures in special collections!  Books need to be ordered and fetched for you.  And they may not even be listed online.  For example, Glasgow’s Mitchell Library has a fantastic collection, but you need to consult a card catalogue to trace items.  Allow much more time than you’d expect to spend, particularly on your first visit!
  • Lastly, can we mention a useful book that is just a listing, and NOT exactly a finding tool:- Music Entries at Stationers’ Hall, 1710–1818 : from lists prepared for William Hawes, D.W. Krummel and Alan Tyson and from other sources (Ashgate, 2004).  Although it gives British Library shelfmarks for some items, it seldom mentions other libraries, despite the compiler having consulted Copac.  We also know that, whilst it’s as complete as it can be, the original Stationers’ Hall lists weren’t comprehensive. Nonetheless, it can be handy for verifying details such as dates, if the publishers submitted the details to Stationers’ Hall in the first place!


Discussion Hots Up

We’re gratified to find that our observations about these fiddle collections are attracting interest!

Sometimes little tiny discoveries come like a ray of sunshine into the routine entering of data into our mega-spreadsheet.  For example, today we found a new source of information that sheds light on the selling activities of our music vendors.  Andrew Rochead, who reissued Robert Petrie’s first Collection of Strathspey Reels and Country Dances, also made and sold square pianos – there are two examples in the University of Edinburgh’s Musical Instrument Museums. There’s a useful database to take note of!

But it gets better.  In 1808, Niel Gow edited and reissued Petrie’s Second Collection.  Muir Wood reissued Petrie’s Third Collection the same year. And Rochead reissued the first collection circa 1809, according to the University of Glasgow’s Special Collections cataloguers.  Or was it? What’s the betting it was 1808, prompting Gow and Rochead to rush forth and get their share of what was obviously hot property?

Ronnie Gibson, doctoral researcher at the University of Aberdeen, tells us that, “Nath Gow judged him the best at competition in 1822 held in conjunction with George IV’s visit to Scotland, so he must’ve been at least ok!”

Petrie lived 1767-1830, so he was in his mid-forties at that competition.  Thankfully musicians remain at the top of their professions for longer than sportspeople!

The question was raised about copyright – had the copyright expired? Well … no, it hadn’t.  Existing legislation provided for 14 years after publication, or 28 if the author was still alive after 14.  So – let’s do our calculations!

  • Book 1 – 1790-1804; Petrie lived on so he got another 14 years copyright
  • Book 2 – 1795-1809; Petrie’s still alive so …
  • Book 3 – 1800-1814; Petrie’s barely 40
  • Book 4 – 1805-1819; Petrie’s still around – and has that competition to play in yet!

One wonders what Petrie got out of these reprinted publications. Here’s hoping he got something.