Transcription notes for Hamilton's Universal Tune-Book
edited by James Manson
published 1845 in Edinburgh by W.Hamilton
transcribed 2016 by John Chambers

The individual tunes are in files with the name, where V is the volume ("part") number, PPP is the page number (1-150), N is the tune number within the page, and the title has underscores separating the words. This gives a very readable system that puts the tunes in the same order as in the book. For the cotillions, I've appended "tune" and the tune number that's to the left of the first staff, to help in associating each tune with its position within the set (or SETT, as the book has it).

A number of tunes are transcribed in two version, with -V1 or -V2 appended to the file name. The V2 versions use ABC 2.0 features such as voice overlays, crescendo/diminuendo symbols, tremolos, and other things not present in early versions of ABC. The V1 versions follow ABC 1.* rules, an attempt to handle voice overlays with chords; tremolos are written out; "cresc..." and "dim..." are used and so on. At the time of transcription (late 2016), there is still a lot of ABC software that doesn't handle the ABC 2.* extensions, to the V1 files should work better. These files also have '-' or '=' instead of the '_' after the initial number, for ease of distinguishing them in the Makefiles that are used to create the large "all tunes" files.

Most of these tunes have been proofread by using the original abc2ps or my own jcabc2ps clone for the V1 files, and Jef Moine's abcm2ps for the V2 files. Some have been tested with other software, such as abc2midi.

There is a lot of variation in the style of titles. The capitalization has been mostly preserved, with a few exceptions: Initial articles are usually in lower-case, following a suggestion sometimes seen that this simplifies the problem of getting software to ignore articles in alphabetical lists. The software can simply ignore all characters before the first upper-case letter (or digit). But note that the Makefile recapitalizes all initial letters, so the HUTB*.abc files that are the complete collection don't follow this scheme (and are closer to the original all-caps title style).

Another problem is that sometimes several titles are shown, with "--" as the separator. Due to the problems getting such long titles shown correctly in PDF and SVG files, I've sometimes split such long title list at the hyphens, using multiple T: lines instead.

And an exception to this is the quadrilles, where the book shows the name of the quadrille set only on the first tune. To help in identifying these tunes that can be easily separated by software, I've included the quadrille title in all the tunes in the set, and combined it with the tune's title into a single T: line. None of the quadrille tunes have long titles, usually just one word and an article, so this doesn't produce an overly-long title.

This collection doesn't use many begin-repeat symbols, mostly only end-repeats are used. This has sometimes been copied in the transcription, though it doesn't agree with the usual modern usage. In most cases, initial repeats or double bars have been added to clarify the start of the strain. Also, end-repeat symbols are sometimes added to strains that have an initial repeat symbol. In many cases, the correct repeat pattern often isn't obvious, and the ABC shows the original notation as closely as is possible. (This may confuse some ABC software.) In any case, musicians should determine the repeat patterns by working with a dance leader. A lot of dance terms are known to represent somewhat different figures, and sometimes different repeat patterns are needed for different groups, especially with groups of experienced "vintage" dancers that may use more complex figures.

This also applies to "airs" used as song tunes. Singers should decide what repeat patterns apply to their lyrics, and do the appropriate repeats. It's common to have several sets of lyrics that use the same tune, and the repeats may differ for such different "songs" that share a tune.

The tunes are often transcribed as multiple 2-or 4-bar lines, with '\' used to join them together for making good PS/PDF/PNG/... images. This is normal practice in ABC, to prevent damage by software like mailers that like to wrap lines to make them shorter. It also corrects some clumsy formatting such as 1 or 2 final bars on a short staff. The staffs breaks here are usually chosen for rather long lines at a small scale, which is good for proofreading (if you have good eyes), but not always best for working musicians. You should adjust the layout to fit your own needs, since staff breaks rarely have any real musical signifigance. This especially applies for people with visual problems.

This collection uses "D.C." a lot, usually after the double bars or final repeat symbols. Much ABC software likes to position "D.C." with the "D" above the final bar line, sticking out to the right of the staffs, and this causes problems on some printers or screens. To help fix this problem, "D.C." in the ABC is usually placed before/above the last symbol (note or rest) before the bar line. Sometimes a final y pseudo-rest is introduced, or a final dotted note is transcribed as two tied notes, to get the "D.C." positioned close to the right edge. Again, this has no musically significance, and publishers are notoriously sloppy in such positioning; it's solely to encourage software to position the "D.C." inside the display/printable area so it's visible when a printer produces a wide margin.

Many of the tunes have comments about their origins and/or use in songs. They have usually been transcribed in a %%begintext item at the bottom. Various ABC software will format such text in different ways. Adjust them as needed by your software. (The original positioning is probably not significant.) One result of this in that N: lines are mostly used for editorial comments, and don't usually contain text that was in the original.