302 – A Compleat Theory of the Scots Highland Bagpipe by Joseph MacDonald

An update by Geoff Hore 2008-2015.  The writing in black font is from A Bibliography of Bagpipe Music. The update comments are in blue font.


1      1803

A / compleat theory / of the / Scots Highland bagpipe / containing / all the shakes, introductions, graces, and cuttings, / which are peculiar to this instrument, reduced to order and method; fully explained & noted / at large in 58 tables and examples – with all the terms of art in which this instru/-ment was originally taught by its first masters and composers in the Islands of Sky & Mull. / Also a full account of the time, style, taste and composition of true pipe music, with ex/-amples of each, in the genuine and native style of this instrument, and an account of the / rules and method by which the pipe composition and time were regulated. / To which is added / directions and examples for the proper execution and cutting of the pipe reels composed / by the same masters in the Isles and Highlands and the first preludes they taught with an ex/-ample of a march, reel, and jig, with their introductions, and cuttings drawn out at length, / and a description of the original intent of pipe music, with a short account of the nature & / compass of the bellows pipe. / The whole carefully collected and preserved in its antient style and form, / without alteration or amendment by / Joseph MacDonald /

Edinr Printed for Patrick Mc Donald and to be had of all the Music sellers. / also to be had of T. Preston No 97 Strand London./

Above the imprint: Price 7/6 Below the imprint, right: J. Johnson Sculpt

 p [i], title; pp [iii-v], preface headed ‘To the Public’; p [vi], dedication; pp 1-33, text; p 34, ‘A March for a Beginner’.

  • Bodleian Library, Oxford.  Bound up with a copy of P. MacDonald’s Collection of Highland Vocal Airs (no. 301 above). However, the title-page is much stained and has evidently been exposed for some considerable length of time. For this reason, and from an examination of the binding, Mr. R. Bruce concludes that the two books were not originally sold as a combined volume, but were bound together at some later date. The leaf containing pp 4-5 is now mis-bound between pages 27 and 28.
  • City Library, Dundee.

The dedication (not the preface) is signed ‘Patrick Mc Donald, Manse of Kilmore, May 1803′.

The year 1803 is generally accepted as the publication date, for example by Alexander Campbell, in Albyn’s Anthology, Edinburgh, vol 1, (1816) p vii. At the Highland Society’s competitions in July 1804, copies were distributed as consolation prizes to ‘such of the performers as had made the greatest improvement’. (Angus Mackay, Ancient Piobaireachd, 1838, p 11 – no. 307 below).

2     1927


p [i], new title; p [iii] original title, headed ‘A Reprint’; pp [v], vi-vii, original preface; pp [viii], ix, preface; p [x], index; p [xi], original dedication; pp 1-34, treatise etc as 1; p 35, notes by Alexander MacDonald; p 36, appendix; p [37] blank.

  • National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh.  12.5 x 9.5″.
  • University Library, Aberdeen.
  • Mitchell Library, Glasgow.
  • British Library, London.
  • Public Library, New York.
  • Bodleian Library, Oxford.
  • Geoff Hore’s Collection.

The preface on p [vii] is dated April 1927. Page 1 is the reverse side of page [xi]. This edition remained on sale as late as 1953. It was announced in the Piping Times, October 1952, that the entire existing stock had been acquired for sale by the College of Piping, together with J. MacLennan’s book (no. 351 below) and the two books by G. F. Ross (353 and 354). This advertisement continued to appear until February 1953, but from the next month the MacDonald Theory was omitted.

 3    1971


p [i], half-title; p [iii], title; p [iv], copyright etc, pp v-vi, foreword by S. MacNeill; p [i], title-page of edition 2 with some omissions; pp [iii, v], vi-vii, [viii], ix, [x], [xi], 1-36, as edition 11; p [37] blank.

  • 13.4 x 9.4″.
  • Geoff Hore’s Collection.

ISBN 0 85409 716 3.

 4    1973

Publisher: Norwood Editions (1973); ISBN-10: 0883054167; ISBN-13: 978-0883054161. 

This book was advertised on the Internet. No other details were provided.  Norwood Editions, Norwood, Pennsylvania appear to have reprinted a number of out of print books throughout the 1970s and 80s. A search of the internet and Yellow Pages failed to find this firm and leads to the conclusion they no longer exist.

 5    1978


Contents as per III.

  • Geoff Hore’s Collection.

The only difference between this and edition III is the presentation of information on the reverse of the title-page (Page iv). There is an additional statement ‘Reprinted 1978’ and the printer’s address has changed.   ISBN 0 85409 716 3.

 6    1992

Publisher: Alasdair Macraonuill (April 1992); Language: English; ISBN-10: 0685595404; ISBN-13: 978-0685595404.

These details obtained from the Internet and like edition 4 no other information was provided.

7     1994


p [i], title; p [ii], imprint; p [iii], contents; p [iv], blank; pp 1-6, chapter 1; pp 7-17, chapter 2; pp [19] 20-21, chapter 3; p [23], editorial note; p [25] 26-93, text; pp [95] 96-99, material added 1803; pp [101] 102-104, appendix 1; pp [105] 106-108, appendix 2; pp [109] 110-118, notes; pp [119] 120-122, bibliography; pp [123] 124-154, facsimiles; pp [155] 156-160, index; p [161], other publications; p [162], blank.

  • Geoff Hore’s Collection.  344 x 245mm.

In 1994 Cannon edited this edition correcting errors that occurred in previous books. It also has well researched editorial comment throughout. ISBN 1-898405-41-7.


  • Rev 00 (8 September 2008).
  • Rev 01 (19 February 2009).  This revision has a number of small typographical changes.
  • Rev 02 (13 April 2013).  Adds ISB numbers and changes the edition numbering from Roman to Arabic numbers.
  • Rev 03. (16 April 2015).   Format changed for bibliography.altpibroch.com.  

© Geoff Hore 2015