Leyden Lyra-viol and Violin Manuscript

Location: GB-NTu

Reference: Bell-White 56

Date: 1695 - 1710 [circa]

Size: Quarto (21.5x18cm)

Extent: 183 folios


A manuscript predominantly consisting of music for lyra-viol in tablature, and pieces in staff notation, probably for violin. The manuscript is named for John Leyden (1775-1811), the Scottish poet and linguist, and one-time owner of the manuscript. The volume was later acquired by the Border poet James Telfer, who loaned it to the musician George Farquhar Graham (1789-1867) – the latter’s handwritten copy is now in the NLS – and it was then acquired by Robert White, whose descendants donated the manuscript to the library of Newcastle University, where it now forms part of the Bell-White collection.

The manuscript was the subject of a detailed article by John H. Robinson, who describes the provenance, physical description, and scripts. The manuscript was rebound in 1984, but a surviving microfilm of the original shows a calf leather binding with the words “Pour la viole” apparently written on its spine. Most of the MS concerns the lyra viol, including three folios of instructions and tablature notation for 84 tunes written for a six-course lyra viol. Stell identified the principal hand of these pieces as that of Andrew Adam, the Glasgow musician who also copied the Sinkler manuscript of 1710.

The remaining 49 pieces are written in staff notation for a treble instrument, probably violin. Stell identifies five distinct scripts for these pieces, and one of these individuals might have been the same scribe as the principal hand in the Bowie manuscript, copying eight pieces on ff. 66v-70.


Robinson, “John Leyden’s Lyra Viol Manuscript"

Stell, Sources, 113-123.

View this manuscript's tunes in the full tune index