Newbattle Violin Manuscript 1

Location: GB-En

Reference: MS 5777

Date: 1671

Size: Oblong octavo

Extent: 71 folios


The two Newbattle violin manuscripts were discovered at Newbattle Abbey by Helena Shire in the 1950s, before being transferred to the National Library of Scotland. Newbattle Violin MS 1 contains 77 pieces, all set for violin: 69 tunes are copied in French violin clef, and a further ten in diatonic violin tablature. The manuscript is linked to the Panmure volumes and other Scottish violin and viol manuscripts by the appearance of the hand of the “Panmure scribe”, argued by some to be the English court violinist Jafery Banister (see notes to Panmure MS 1 for a longer description). The script features in 37 of the pieces, and the variety of other hands seem to represent a combination of professional copyists or musicians, and slightly more haphazard amateur scribes. The internal date “1671” is recorded on f. 44, in reference to The Queen’s Masque.

Of the Newbattle and Panmure violin manuscripts, this volume features perhaps the most London-centric repertoire. Almost all of the 69 pieces in French violin clef are court dances, many attributed to English court composers such as John Banister, Louis Grabu, and Robert Smith. For the final ten tunes on ff. 70v-71v, the manuscript adopts a similar diatonic tablature to that of the Guthrie MS, with the letters “a” to “e” indicating an open string or fingering rather than exact pitches, and with no rhythmic notation. These pieces would only have been useful as an aide-memoire for an individual who already knew the tunes. A realised version has been used for the thematic index, but this is only one possible realisation: discovery of concordances for these tunes might lead in a different direction.

The pieces in tablature have the strongest local connection in the manuscript, including the tune “Cowgate gigue”, possibly named after the area of Edinburgh’s Old Town, and “The cloutinach”, presumably a transliteration of the Gaelic Clùdanach or Cluigeineach, meaning a chiming of bells.


McGregor, Violinists and Violin Music in Scotland, 221-6.

Stell, Sources, 131-7.

McCart, The Kers and the Maules

Links: NLS Catalogue

View this manuscript's tunes in the full tune index