Orpheus Caledonius, or a collection of the best Scotch Songs set to Musick, 1725

Scope and Content

Transcript of William Thomson's Orpheus Caledonius, or a collection of the best Scotch Songs set to Musick (London: 1725), made by John Murdoch Henderson, 1951

This is one of several significant music manuscripts gifted to the University by John Murdoch Henderson, and like his other deposits, has been heavily annotated with his own notes and comments on aspects of the original work.

Administrative / Biographical History

Willaim Thomson (c 1684 - c 1760) William Thomson (c1684 - c1760), Scottish singer and folk song collector, is thought to have been born in Edinburgh, where his father was one of the king's trumpeters for Scotland. He settled in London and in 1725 published Orpheus Caledonius, or a Collection of the best Scotch Songs set to Music. Many of the 50 Scottish folksongs contained in his collection were taken from Allan Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany (1723). In 1733 an expanded second edition was published, in 2 volumes, containing 100 songs, with improvements in the harmonisation of the original 50.

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

Conditions Governing Access

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

Acquisition Information

Gifted to the University in 1963, by John Murdoch Henderson, MA (Aberdeen, 1926), Aberdeen.

Other Finding Aids

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/library/

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: speclib@abdn.ac.uk) 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

Transcript of William Thompson's Orpheus Caledonius: a collection of the best Scotch songs set to music, 1725 (GB 231 MS 0791). Associated with Gavin Greig (1856-1914), folklorist. Transcribed 1908.

Transcript of Music for Allan Ramsay's collection of Scots songs. Vol. 1: for the Scots songs in the Tea Table Miscellany, c 1726 (GB 231 MS 2439).

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 songs, 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: http://www.nefa.net/index2.htm). 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 nephew, Murdoch Paterson.

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


William Thomson, Orpheus Caledonius, or a Collection of the best Scotch Songs set to Music (London: 1725)

Additional Information

This material is original