Ryan’s Mammoth Collection

Ryan’s Mammoth Collection was published in the 1880s and later republished (by someone else, without crediting the original publisher or author) as “Cole’s 1000 Fiddle Tunes” in the 1940s. It contains 1050 tunes (although some of them are almost certainly duplicates with different names) played in and around Boston in the late 19th century, grouped by style — its full title is: Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, 1050 Reels and Jigs, Hornpipes, Clogs, Walk-arounds, Essences, Strathspeys, Highland Flings and Contra Dances, with Figures, And How to Play Them.

Andrew Kuntz, compiler of the Traditional Tune Archive (formerly known as the Fiddler’s Companion) has written a series of essays about Ryan’s Mammoth Collection:

The Mel Bay facsimile reprint contains more information about the history of the collection, but I really wish they’d stop printing music books with perfect binding. Spiral or comb bindings let the pages lie flat on a music stand; perfect binding does not. And the Mel Bay reprint arranges the original plates two-up on a page, which seems extra dense to me. The original was dense enough; stacking two pages on top of each other may be too many tunes per page.

Which brings me to a project I’ll probably be working on for a bit — a PDF collecting new engravings of the tunes in Ryan’s. It looks like all the tunes have been transcribed in ABC format, thanks to John Chambers and a number of other contributors. I think as a learning project, I’ll try to take all those transcriptions and engrave them with LilyPond, then put them together in a PDF which attempts to preserve the order of the original while increasing readability. At the very least, it will include an index.

For the time being, if you want your own facsimile copy in PDF form, you can download it here. If you use forScore, the sheet music app for iPad (about which more later in a post of its own), I’ve made a version for that which includes an alphabetical index in the form of bookmarks, so you can search for tunes easily. You can download that here.

Once I’ve got a PDF with new engravings ready, I’ll post about that and update this post to link to it.