Newbattle Violin Manuscript 2

Title: Lessons for ye violin

Location: GB-En

Reference: MS 5778

Date: 1670 - 1680 [circa]

Size: Oblong octavo

Extent: 20 folios


This volume is the earliest Scottish source specifically labelled as a tutor book for the violin. Along with Newbattle violin MS 1, it was discovered at the library of Newbattle Abbey by Helena Shire in the 1950s. It was also probably compiled for use by the Kerrs of Newbattle, Earls of Lothian, several of whom are known to have been bowed string players. Most notable are the eldest sons of William Kerr 3rd Earl of Lothian, William and Robert Kerr, who studied violin, viol, and lute in France and Holland in 1651-7, including lessons with a French court violinist.

Newbattle violin MS 2 has a similar leather binding to Newbattle violin MS 1 but is in poor condition, with its seven final folios partly chewed by mice, leaving some of its musical items incomplete. On the final folio is a partially missing contents list and the title “Lessones for ye violin”.

Sections of the manuscript have been used for writing practice, arithmetic, and doodling, with the names "Archibald Murray", and "Archibald Nicol" clear on f. 20v. (The most likely candidate is an Archibald Murray, baptised in Newbattle in 1692. Newbattle OPR, GB-Enr 695/10/277.) The state of the manuscript attests to its continued use, and potentially storage away from the better conditions at Newbattle Abbey.

The "Panmure scribe" is the manuscript’s most prominent hand (see notes to Panmure MS 1). A thinner, less competent and messier script has copied some of the technical exercises, and two untitled tunes on ff. 2v and 4v. A third hand has copied six vernacular tunes, on ff. 11, 13, and 19-19v. It is neat, competent and professional, possibly that of another teacher, featuring a more old-fashioned script with elements of secretary hand.

The manuscript’s 41 musical items include six scales or technical exercises, followed by 35 tunes, divided between court airs, the top part of simple ensemble pieces, and vernacular tunes. This division into three sections is clear from the table of contents, which separately lists the popular tunes, court dances, and a sequence of pieces numbered “1 pairt” through “14 pairt”. These sections seem to have been designed to introduce the pupil to different technical challenges and styles of music. The table of contents includes several popular tunes no longer found in the manuscript: “[Welcome home] my bony love”, “Northern Nanie”, “The Bonyest Lass in all the world”, “Bothwell briggs”, “An the kirk would let me be”, and “Niggin Joe”.

The final section of the manuscript (ff. 16-19v) is in poor condition, with all nine pieces partially missing: six untitled pieces, and three additional popular tunes (“Black J[ack]”, “The Chancellor’s Delight”, and “Donald Couper”). Previously untraced, the untitled pieces in fact correspond to the first six of the three-part airs in the Panmure ensemble part-books (GB-En MSS 9455-7), all within sections copied by the Panmure scribe. The first three of these pieces are three-part reworkings of the two-part airs in Christopher Simpson’s Principles of Practical Musick (1665). As unaccompanied airs, the tunes add little in the way of additional technical or musical development for the violin pupil; their place in the teaching volume makes more sense as an introduction to ensemble playing.


McCart, The Kers and the Maules

McCart, “The Panmure Manuscripts"

McGregor, Violinists and Violin Music in Scotland, 221-8, 389-391.
Includes transcription of five Scots tunes from the MS.

Stell, Sources, 131-7.

View this manuscript's tunes in the full tune index