1st Edition

Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting from the Enlightenment to the Romantic Era

ISBN 9781138279292
Published November 17, 2016 by Routledge
294 Pages

USD $59.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

One of the earliest documented Scottish song collectors actually to go 'into the field' to gather his specimens, was the Highlander Joseph Macdonald. Macdonald emigrated in 1760 - contemporaneously with the start of James Macpherson's famous but much disputed Ossian project - and it fell to the Revd. Patrick Macdonald to finish and subsequently publish his younger brother's collection. Karen McAulay traces the complex history of Scottish song collecting, and the publication of major Highland and Lowland collections, over the ensuing 130 years. Looking at sources, authenticity, collecting methodology and format, McAulay places these collections in their cultural context and traces links with contemporary attitudes towards such wide-ranging topics as the embryonic tourism and travel industry; cultural nationalism; fakery and forgery; literary and musical creativity; and the move from antiquarianism and dilettantism towards an increasingly scholarly and didactic tone in the mid-to-late Victorian collections. Attention is given to some of the performance issues raised, either in correspondence or in the paratexts of published collections; and the narrative is interlaced with references to contemporary literary, social and even political history as it affected the collectors themselves. Most significantly, this study demonstrates a resurgence of cultural nationalism in the late nineteenth century.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; ’Never hitherto published’: preserving the Highland heritage; ’The aera of Scotish music and Scotish song is now passed’: Lowland song collecting, c. 1780-1800; ’To take down a melody’: travel in pursuit of song; ’Leaving the world to find out whether they are old or new’: invention or fakery?; ’Which many a bard had chanted many a day’: paratextual imagery and metaphors in Romantic Celtic song collections; Illustrations and notes: Stenhouse’s and Hogg’s quest for origins, c. 1820; Increasing the knowledge and improving the taste, c. 1830-1850; ’The feelings of a Scotsman’ and the illusion of origins in the later 19th century; Conclusion; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.

View More



Karen McAulay is Music and Academic Services Librarian at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Her research explores the interface between antiquarian fact-finding and artistic creativity; the parallels between literary and musical fakery in the early Romantic era; and the use of metaphor in the paratexts of song collections in the early nineteenth century.


'This volume is a comprehensive survey... McAulay presents a highly readable account of her topic, identifying trends, themes, and recurrent features with confidence... It will undoubtedly be valued by students and teachers in this field, particularly those with a special interest in musical developments and the way these have shaped the perception of what can be considered to be ’national’ song.' Folk Music Journal 'This is a book of scope and ambition... McAulay has provided the reader with something approaching a comprehensive guide to a complex subject... an admirable production at many levels: a must for any library, public or private, that takes Scottish music and history at all seriously. It is heartening to see such intensive study being given more than adequate publication, with clean readable typeface, good paper, decent binding and pages not over-crowded with text... it has much to offer that will undoubtedly be of interest to you, and a good deal of which you might have been unaware hitherto.' Scottish Literary Review 'At a time when Scotland’s autonomy is the subject of active political discussion, Karen McAulay’s fascinating book could not be more timely... McAulay demonstrates an extraordinary ability to uncover connections and networks [...] and in doing so conveys a vivid impression not only of the prime movers in her narrative, but of a much larger cast... Throughout this fascinating book, McAulay steers a careful path through complex networks of collectors, publishers, academics, amateurs, and professionals, with the skill and dedication which characterises the collectors themselves.' Brio '... this is a very readable and informative volume. It will serve specialist researchers well as a source for further lines of enquiry, and graduate students with an interest in song collecting in general or the history of Scottish traditional songs in particular.' Scottish Journal of Performance 'Karen McAulay’s monograph ably addresses a signifi