The Caledonian Pocket Companion
The Caledonian Pocket Companion
James Oswald, editor (and composer of a few tunes)
James Oswald was a musician, composer, editor and publisher of music in Edinburgh and London from the 1730s thru 1770s. He created "The Caledonian Pocket Companion" during the 1740s and 50s. It started as a booklet of 36 pages, with about 50 tunes. Most of the tunes have the basic tune plus one or more variations. This pattern was kept up in the 12 (or possibly more) booklets in the series. It includes a lot of the best-known tunes in the traditional Scottish repertoire. The variations give a reader some idea of how such tunes were likely played and performed by musicians at the time. These booklets were best sellers at the time, especially among country-dance musicians in the British Isles and the Colonies.

When six of the booklets had been printed and were successful, Oswald produced a book that combined all six of them. When the count reached twelve, he produced another combined book. But music historians have had some problems caused by his terminology, and it has been difficult to find them in archives. The same terms were used for the 6-booklet editions, none of which were dated. Numerous other combined books were published, such as one that contained booklets 8, 11 and 12. There may have been other booklets, but they haven't been found in archives (yet).

One thing that helped was that the National Library of Scotland, working with the folks at and, settled on a somewhat consistent terminology. "Book" is used for the original (36 tunes, 50 pages) pocket-size booklets. "Vol(ume)" is used for the two main 6-Book collections, as well as for the assorted other combined collections. "Ed(ition)", when used, means the sometimes slightly-edited versions of any of these. Over a few years (roughly 2016-2019) images of these publications have been available online. I've used these photocopies to transcribe the tunes to the ABC music notation, to make them more available and easily used by musicians. Serious students of the origins of the music of Scotland (and the UK in general) might like to find and download the online copies of this collection, and read them as published. As of this writing, their URLs haven't been very stable, so I'd just suggest using "Caledonian Pocket Companion" and "James Oswald" to locate them.

I've kept scanned images of the two 6-book(let) "Volumes" in the src directory that you see below. Note that they followed in Oswald's confused footsteps by using similar names, with "01" in the name of the first 6-book volume, and "00" in the name of the second volume. ;-)

Below is a full listing of what's in this top-level directory. Here are some links that you may find useful:

all the tunes This lists the tunes in the entire collection, in the same order as in the booklets and (most) combined "volumes".
abc1.pdf The full set in PDF form, formatted for ABC version 1 to make it work on almost all ABC apps.
abc2.pdf The full set in PDF form, formatted for ABC version 2, mostly for the dozen or so tunes that use multi-voice notation to indicate harmony lines, drones, etc.

-- John Chambers