Bunting Manuscript 29

MS 4/29 Captain Magan & Creamonea

Many people have heard of Edward Bunting and his unique manuscript collection held in Special Collections at Queen’s University. What is perhaps less well known is that the most important manuscript in this collection is Manuscript 29 or MS 4/29.

It is a rather unassuming and humble notebook to look at but contains a wealth of information about the music the harpers at the Belfast harpers’ meeting (Belfast Harp Festival, 1792) played, also the harps they played on and the technique they used to play them. While the gathering of musicians was intended to rejuvenate the Gaelic harp tradition, it was sadly more of a farewell. This is what makes Bunting’s manuscript recordings so incredibly important. He sat with the musicians as they played and quickly transcribed their music into his pocket notebook. He also took notes about their style of playing and their background. Later he would transfer the music and information to other notebooks and eventually publications, but he often changed the music slightly, sometimes by accident, sometimes by design. So, the most accurate knowledge of what happened on that day, musically, is what is contained in Manuscript 4/29.

We are very conscious of the importance of this manuscript in Special Collections and have therefore created a high-resolution digital copy. Great care has been taken in the digitisation process, ensuring all marginalia is included and the lighting does not obscure pencil marks in any way. This copy can be found on Digital Special Collections & Archives and is publicly available. In order to best preserve the manuscript for future generations we will limit access to the original unless absolutely necessary.