Music for Allan Ramsay's collection of Scots songs

Scope and Content

Transcript of Music for Allan Ramsay's collection of Scots songs. Vol. 1: for the Scots songs in the Tea Table Miscellany, c 1726.

This transcript, made by John Murdoch Henderson in 1952, is believed to be a copy of Musick for Allan Ramsay's Collection of Scots Songs. Set by A. Stuart&engrav'd by R. Cooper. [With a frontispiece.] (Edinburgh: Allan Ramsay, [?1725/6]). It is one of several significant music manuscripts gifted by him to the University, and contains minor annotations, in his hand, throughout.

Administrative / Biographical History

Allan Ramsay (1686 - 1758) Allan Ramsay was born in Leadhills, Lanarkshire in 1685. He was apprenticed as a wigmaker in Edinburgh c 1704, on completion of which (1709), he opened his own shop in the Grassmarket area of the city.

He became increasingly involved in Edinburgh intellectual and literary circles from 1710, and in 1712 co-founded the Easy Club, a society with strong Jacobite leanings which met to discuss literature and politics. Many of Ramsay's early poems received their first public airing when read aloud to club members, and by 1720 he had given up his wig-making business and set up as a bookseller. In 1725 he moved to premises in the High Street where he opened what is generally regarded as Britain's first circulating library.

By this time he had become a successful poet, publishing his first collection of verse in 1721 and his second in 1728. He wrote in both Scots and English but with markedly more success in the former, which did much to initiate the eighteenth century revival of Scottish vernacular poetry - later continued by Fergusson and Burns.

He was also lauded for popularising works from the earlier Scottish literary tradition: As editor of The Evergreen (1724), he anthologised the work of long neglected poets including Dunbar and Henryson; and with his The Tea table miscellany, 5 volumes, (Edinburgh: 1724-37) he resurrected many traditional songs and ballads. Though he has been criticised for bowdlerising and altering the texts of many these poems and songs, the popular appeal of his publications is undisputed, The Tea table miscellany being re-printed more than 17 times before the end of the eighteenth century, and re-appearing in revised forms throughout the nineteenth.

In 1736 Ramsay opened the short-lived and financially-disastrous, New Theatre in Carruber's Close, Edinburgh. After its closure in 1837, he retired to his house on the Castlehill, Edinburgh, where he remained until his death in 1758.

Ramsay frequently spent time at the home of his friends the Forbes of Newhall, and Newhall House has been identified as the setting of his greatest triumph, the pastoral comedy The Gentle shepherd (1725). A huge popular success, it also received extravagant praise from, amongst others, Fergusson, Burns and James Boswell who spoke of its real picture of manners "and beautiful rural imagery":

This information has been compiled from the Slainte web site's ( Scottish Authors pages, an online version of Discovering Scottish writers, edited by Alan Reid and Brian D. Osborne, (Edinburgh: Scottish Library Association and Scottish Cultural Press, c1997).

John Murdoch Henderson (1902 - 1972) John Murdoch Henderson, son of Charles Henderson, farmer, and Mary Jane Murdoch, was born in New Deer on 31 March 1902, and graduated from the University of Aberdeen, MA 1926. He taught for several years in the south of Scotland, before returning to Aberdeen where he taught science and mathematics at Frederick Street, and latterly, Ruthrieston School. A gifted composer, and an authority on Scottish fiddle music, he wrote The Flowers of Scottish Melody: A First Companion to the Scottish Violinist and Pianist (Glasgow: Bayley&Ferguson, 1935), and arranged J. Scott Skinner's The Scottish Music Maker Skinner: a choice selection of strathspeys, Scots reels, schottisches, double jigs, waltz tunes, song airs, pastorals, marches, quicksteps, hornpipes ... arranged for the violin (Glasgow: Bayley&Ferguson, 1957). He was also a prolific collector of music for the fiddle and pipes, and during his life made several significant manuscript deposits to the University of Aberdeen.

His printed music collection was bequeathed to the National Library of Scotland in 1975/6, and duplicates from this collection transferred to Aberdeen University, where they form the University's John Murdoch Henderson Collection. A further collection of his papers was deposited more recently in the North East Folklore Archive, Aden Country Park, Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire, by his family. See Related Units of Description for further details.


Single item

Access Information

Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet

Acquisition Information

Gifted to the University in 1963, by John Murdoch Henderson

Other Finding Aids

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online

Alternative Form Available

No copies known

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to the condition of the original, copies may be supplied for private research use only on receipt of a signed undertaking to comply with current copyright legislation.

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures


No accruals expected

Related Material

John Murdoch Henderson (1902 - 1972) John Murdoch Henderson Collection (University of Aberdeen, Special Libraries collection: ref. Hend inst (instrumental); and Hend voc (vocal)). Originally bequeathed to the National Library of Scotland in 1975/6, duplicates of items already in stock came to the University of Aberdeen and helped create this Collection. The collection was accumulated between 1908-1960, with a contents date range of 1780-1935. Composers represented range from Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) to Joshua Campbell (fl. 1762). Famous Scottish composers feature strongly as with Nathaniel Gow (1763-1831), son of Neil Gow (1727-1807), Robert Mackintosh (1745-1807), and J. Scott Skinner (1843-1927). Music from the Highlands, mainly for the fiddle and some for the bagpipe are well represented in the Collection, with famous Scottish composers for the fiddle forming a core of the musical volumes. Scots song, particularly those from the Jacobite era, feature strongly in the vocal arrangement of the Collection. Works in English and Gaelic are also represented.

John Murdoch Henderson Collection (North East Folklore Archive, Aden Country Park, Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire, Scotland UK AB42 5FQ: This collection, which includes several untitled manuscripts, original copies of 19th century fiddle and pipe tune publications, posters advertising local shows and dances in the early 1900s and several photographs from Henderson's own album, was deposited in the North East Folklore Archive in November 1999, by his family.

Papers of John Murdoch Henderson, c 1920 - 1972 (National Library of Scotland Manuscripts Division: ref. MSS 21669 - 713)

Allan Ramsay (1686 - 1758) Literary papers of Allan Ramsay (National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division) (Reference: MSS 510, 582, 804-05, 2233, 2618, 5200, 9748-9749: see Location Register of English Literary MSS 18-19th cent 1995)

MSS of Allan Ramsay among the Cowie collection, including MS of 'the Roundell to her Health'and 'bogi-dow' (National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division) (Reference: Acc 3670, 3733)

Literary papers of Allan Ramsay (Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections) (Reference: La ii 212)

Literary papers of Allan Ramsay (British Library, Manuscript Collections) (Reference: Eg MSS 2023-24: see Index of English literary MSS vol 3 1700-1800)

Poems and letters of Allan Ramsay,to Sir John Clerk, 1722 - 1755 (National Archives of Scotland) (Reference : GD18/4313-63) NRA 29182 Clerk

Songs of Allan Ramsay (Manchester University: John Rylands Library) (Reference: Eng MS 748)

Papers of/ relating to Allan Ramsay (Huntington Library, San Marino, California, United States of America) (see Location Register of English Literary MSS 18-19th cent 1995)

Other Transcript of William Thomson's Orpheus Caledonius, or a collection of the best Scotch Songs set to Musick, 1725 (GB 231 MS 2432). Many of the 50 Scottish folksongs contained in This collection were taken from Allan Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany (1723).

Additional Information