303 – The Bagpipe Preceptor by Daniel Menzies

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.

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In his original research Cannon found one copy of this book in The National Library of Scotland. It was imperfect with pages 45, 46 and 47 missing. Since then the late Franz Buisman discovered another in the Muziek-Historiche Bibliotheek, Haags Gemeente-Musem, The Hague, Netherlands.

Cannon had two candidates for authorship, Robert Menzies and Captain Daniel Menzies; on the balance of the evidence available at that time decided Robert most likely wrote the book. However, the Dutch copy has a signature of Captain Daniel Menzies and along with other evidence it is now believed he compiled the book. (Refer Joseph MacDonald’s Compleat Theory of the Scots Highland Bagpipe edited by Roderick D Cannon 1994 Page 119 (No 302 above).)

This is a very rare book and the only originals known are those mentioned above. However, a piping friend in New Zealand remembers one in his father’s house in the 1960s. Repeated attempts to locate it have failed.

1      1818

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p [1], half-title; p [3], title; p [5], dedication; pp [7], 8-10, preface; p [11], table of contents: pp [13], 14-44, preceptor and tunes (115).

  • National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh.  5.4” x 10.0”. An imperfect copy ending at p 44. The half-title page has the manuscript note, ‘For Stewart Pyrie Esqre From his ffriend the Author’.
  • Muziek-Historiche Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands.
  • Geoff Hore’s Collection.  A Scotcopy by Unicorn Limited, USA.

The music of the Preceptor is written one fifth lower than the actual sound, so that low G of the bagpipe appears as middle C and so on.

Some tunes include a high E note (i.e. high B in modern notation) which is said to be played ‘by stopping or pinching one half of the rear hole with your thumb, the rest of the holes being at the same time stopped close. This note seldom occurs in the Piobrachs, but you shall meet it frequently in the Reels, Strathspeys, and Quicksteps.’ , This latter statement is not borne out by any other collection of Highland bagpipe music.

Unicorn Ltd in USA sells a photocopied reproduction of the book from Muziek-Historiche Bibliotheek.

Keith Sanger of Edinburgh has been carrying out much valuable research into the history of the Highland bagpipe and recently located the following advertisement from The Edinburgh Courant dated 10 October 1818.

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This is virtually a repeat of the title-page but it does add authenticity to the publication date of 1818 on the title-page.

Sanger adds the following comments about Menzies and the Preceptor:

  “…its author was prolific, according to Mary Anne Alburger’s Scottish Fiddlers and their Music, page 119, a lot of his compositions for fiddle were published without his name attached, by Duncan M’Kerracher (1796-1873). The obituary of Capt Daniel Menzies of the Royal Perthshire Militia who died at Kinross was published in the Edinburgh Courant of the 8th May 1828, and his testament is registered as NAS SC64/42/33, although it does not provide all that much information. Likewise, a notice advertising for his creditors to contact his executor was published in the Courant for 28 Sept 1829.

“I noticed that when I checked the NLS catalogue, apart from the musical glasses he also seems to have published a poem about the same time. There is a MS of his entitled ‘Airs on Clarsaich’ containing airs composed, communicated or sung by Capt Daniel Menzies with some internal dates of 1822, now in the School of Scottish Studies collections. The Preceptor was also noted in Blackwoods Magazine for Oct 1818-March 1819.”

The book about the ‘musical glasses’ mentioned above is A Treatise of the Angelica or Musical Glasses by Daniel Menzies, published in 1828. Recently Elke Greffard of British Columbia in Canada rescued a copy of this book from oblivion and has provided the details. 

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  • Rev 00 (19 February 2009)
  • Rev 01 (19 November 2010).  Adds more information about Menzies.
  • Rev 02. (16 April 2015).  Format changed for bibliography.altpibroch.com.

© Geoff Hore 2015