John Walsh's music and dance publications
Caledonian Country Dances
A Composite Musical Volume
Country Dances Selected
The Compleat Country-Dancing-Master
Tests: sess list tunelist tool.

John Walsh was the name of two publishers (father and son) in London from about 1690 to the middle 1700s. They were best known as the publisher of George Handel's music. Early on, John Walsh Sr. also stepped into the niche that John Playford had left behind, which his sons hadn't kept going: He became the main publisher of "country dance" books. These were mostly small, pocket-sized booklets with typically one or two dances per page, with a tune for each dance. Walsh's notation looks much more "modern" than Playford's, partly because he adopted the latest advances in printing technology as they became available.

Starting around 1740, John Walsh Jr. published a number of collections by the name "Caledonian Country Dances", with several editors. As was the Walshes' practice, little information about their sources was included. These are among the earliest known "Scottish" or "Caledonian" dance-music collections. I've been working on collecting all the tunes, with the accompanying dance descriptions when available. It should be noted that "Scottish" in this case refers mostly to the tune's origin; "country dance" at the time wasn't distinctly different in Scotland and England, or in Holland and France, for that matter. The local dance styles probably differed somewhat, but this can't be determined from the published dance descriptions.

This is a collection that's "under construction", as I find time to hunt down copies of the music and transcribe it. Photographic copies of the original texts are slowly becoming available online, which is what makes this possible. The files here mostly contain single tunes in ABC notation, with the "alltunes.*" files at the end a single file that contains all the tunes transcribed so far.

Note that some of the collections here were transcribed by other people. I've received most of these in email. People are free to copy the files here and put them on your own web sites. The music is all public domain, and good ABC transcriptions shouldn't add anything (other than clarifying some things by using modern notation), so it's not obvious that ABC like you'll find here is even subject to copyright. It's merely a transcription to a different medium, and the real "value added" is availability.


Transcription Notes:

The Walsh publications are somewhat a mess. They have a variety of titles. "Caledonian Country Dances" was a common title, but there are many other titles used. Identical tunes and dance descriptions occur in different volumes. Some titles have different tunes or dances (or both) in different volumes. Some dances were published with different titles in different books, usually with different tunes. There are often no publication dates, and are referenced by various terms (Book, Volume, Edition, etc.) in no consistent manner. Many of the publications appear to have been created by mixing a few new tunes and dances with selections from previous publications, without any attribution.

The file names are now just the title, with '_' used as a separator. Initial articles are dropped. This results in the alltunes.abc file being in alphabetical order by title. If a title exists in more than one source text, and the music or dance description have significant differences, there are multiple transcriptions, with a number added to the end of the title. Nearly-identical versions from several sources are put in a single file, with several S: lines listing the sources. All this may change with time, in an attempt to make sense of all of Walsh's published dance tunes.

There are many problems with the dance descriptions. The text is often not of good quality. Walsh was known for using the cheapest printing of the time. This made his music more widely available, but didn't result in high-quality historical documents. Punctuation is often lost, periods and commas are difficult to distinguish, and random specks can look like periods. The thin parts of letters often fade or disappear. In the worst cases, "??" is used to indicate an illegible portion of text. In general, most of the words are legible (or can be inferred from context), but the punctuation shouldn't be considered reliable.

In many cases, there are explicit statements or good clues in the dance to determine the tune's repeat pattern. When this isn't clear, I've generally transcribed the repeat symbols as-is, which is usually different from modern practice. Initial double bars or begin-repeat symbols are used for full first bars, as is common with some publishers (but not others). Musicians playing for dancing may have to figure out the appropriate repeat pattern. It was common in the 18th century to omit final repeat symbols, and in such cases, the final repeat sign is added to match current practice. In some cases, the dance description describes the repeats, and the tune is modified (if necessary) to match that. And of course, when you're not playing a tune for its dance, you can use any repeat pattern you like.

Initial articles ("the", "a", "an" and similar words in other languages) are omitted in file names, and are lower case in the T: header. This is sometimes recommended for computer files, since it makes correct alphabetization easy in different languages by using the rule "Sort on the titles without their initial lower-case letters."

Many of Walsh's publications follow the early practice of only using sharps and flats, but not natural signs. So an accidental in the key signature is cancelled with a sharp or flat, not a natural. The abc follows the modern practice of using naturals in such cases. In a few cases, a tune uses this scheme and also contains natural signs. As I've already said, Walsh's publications are messy.


There is a cache subdirectory with transcriptions of some of the tunes from other people. I've found a few of these, and sometimes incorporated them into my files. I may eventually collect more tunes from other transcribers, and include them here as part of this collection, but so far, not many people are transcribing music from the online photocopies of original publications.


The following tables are being expanded into a set of general notes for transcribing 18th-Century dance notation to ABC. Meanwhile, here are the notes about the Walsh publications:

The dance descriptions use some abbreviations and non-typable "icons", mostly as dance phrase boundaries. The icons have been typed in the ABC with typable "tokens" similar to the icons, but usually rotated by 90°. These icons seem to be used in no consistent fashion, so all they really indicate is the end of a "strain", the common term at the time for the major sections of a tune and/or dance. Here are the abbreviations

Abbr. means description
D. double four steps forward, then backwards, end closing feet.
Co. contrary a person of the other sex who isn't your partner.
Cu. couple
Figure figure "Figure of Eight", aka "Hey", "Reel for 3 or 4", etc.
S. single mostly in "turn S.", turn in place.
We. women
Wo. woman
Here are the icons seen so far:
image
in book
token
in abc
description
M Man. Used mostly in diagrams at upper right showing initial formation. Also in-line in a few dances, transcribed as M.
W Woman. Used mostly in diagrams at upper right showing initial formation. Also in-line in a few dances, transcribed as W.
| Line thickness probably doesn't have any significance
.| This is the most common icon, and means the end of a tune's "strain".
:| This is the second most common icon, and usually means to repeat the previous strain.

|.
|:
These seem to be used occasionally to refer to the tune's second strain, but this isn't clear.
||: A double line might indicate the 2nd strain, but it isn't often used.
.|: Most of these marks don't seem to be used in any consistent manner; they might mean little more that "end of musical phrase" or "end of dance figure".
.||. ___
.||: ___
:|. ___
:|| ___
:||. ___
:||: ___
.: Probably all such 3-dot patterns mean the third time through a tune's strain, regardless of the arrangement of the 3 dots.
.:|
:.| ___
..| See Highland Laddy and Mac Foset's Farewell; probably means the same as with two horizontal dots.
.|. ___
:#: This seems to have been used to mark the ends of major dance sections but its meaning is unclear.
:|:| ___
:|.:| ___
.|# ___

:S:
S|:
These are "segno" symbols used in a few of Walsh's collections, primarily to indicate repeat of the last 4 measures of a tune. The first is the symbol used above the staff in a tune; the second is used within a dance description like the above end-of-strain marks.
ye yn yr In the 1700s the letter 'y' was still used for "th", often in this vertical format. So "ye" is usually transcribed as "the", and "yn" as "then". But "yr" seems to be used as either "their" or "your". Note that "ye" was also used for the plural of "you", but this doesn't seem to occur in Walsh's dance descriptions. When the meaning is clear from context, the modern spelling is used. When two words both make sense, the 'y' spelling is transcribed.
## (columns) Some dance descriptions are written in two or three columns. This is typically done when the first part of the dance is varied, and the rest of the dance is the same each time. Some dances have several sections that are entirely different, but the sections have a consistent organization of the "strains". For such dances, I've sometimes used "##" to separate the columns, with a a horizontal line (%%sep 1 1 300) between the sections.

The sources that I've used are:

1 [CCDTB]:
IMSLP #74348, first collection, edited by John Johnson, called "3rd edition" and also the collections labelled 1 and 2.
2 [CCD2]:
IMSLP #98359, second colection, 84 pp. Also http://archive.org/stream/caledoniancountr00ingl#page/n3/mode/2up" "Caledonian Country Dances Being a Collection of all the Celebrated Scotch and English Country Dances now in Vogue, with Proper Directions to each Dance. Perform'd at Court, and Publick Entertainments. For the Harpsicord, Violin, Hoboy, or German Flute. Vol.II. PART I."
3 [CCD3]:
IMSLP #173105, labelled "3rd Edition", but not the same as #1 above.
4 [ACMV]:
(archive.org) "A Composite Music Volume", 1748, a combination of other music collections, including the above.
5 [CCD5]:
IMSLP #98353, #98354 "Country Dances Selected" (2 parts) has extensive overlap with the above collections, and may not have any unique pages.
6 [CCDM1,2]:
IMSLP #41760 "The Compleat Country Dancing-Master" shares many tunes and dances with the above, often rewritten with small changes, and lacks bass lines.
7 [DMDfD]:
"The Dancing-master, or, Directions for dancing country dances ..." http://digital.nls.uk/special-collections-of-printed-music/pageturner.cfm?id=89751228
http://archive.org/stream/dancingmasterord00play, London 1709. Printed by William Pearson, but labelled "Printed for John Walsh and P. Randall". This collection has a large overlap with the above collection 6. This duplication has been used to proofread and correct for illegible portions of both. Note that the spelling conventions are rather different in these two collections.
8 [MCJLSH3]:
IMSLP #41760 "The Compleat Country Dancing-Master" shares many tunes and dances with the above, often rewritten with small changes, and lacks bass lines.

If you don't have ABC software, you might like to try a tool of mine that returns the tunes in various formats. If you click here, you'll get the page you're looking at now, but the ABC files will be expanded to show all the tunes. Each file and tune will have a line of links to return it in a number of different formats. The lines labelled 0: will return the entire set of tunes. (This page may be slow because it reads every .abc file in the directory.)