The discovery, from the era when ‘reels’ first began to be recorded and published, will be the subject of an article in a forthcoming issue of early music journal The Consort.
Scotland’s best-known dance, the strathspey featuring the classic ‘Scotch snaps’, first became popular in the Georgian period.
The earliest written tune in the rhythm is dated 1710 with the word ‘strathspey’ first appearing in print in 1749.
Dated to 1766, this book belonged to a young Elizabeth Rose of Kilravock (1747-1815).
Ten of the pieces are identified as strathspeys, three as ‘rants’, and the rest as reels. Many of the tunes appear in the earliest printed collections of reels and are now well known but some are new additions to the published record.
As the manuscript is not apparently in Elizabeth’s hand, it may have been presented to her by a music tutor or other acquaintance, perhaps the enigmatic Duncan Campbell to whom five reels are attributed. It is dated El. Rose, Kilravock Castle, Decr, 27th 1766, Kilravock had a reputation for music-making and was visited by both Prince Charles Edward Stuart and the Duke of Cumberland in the days before the Battle of Culloden and by the poet Robert Burns.
It came up for sale in Edinburgh on August 16 as part of the firm’s annual auction devoted to Scottish works of art. The estimate was £3000-5000.