Background reading... The early Gaelic harp is a huge
subject in itself, yet a true appreciation of it requires a broad
understanding of early music and Scottish and Irish history and
culture going back a thousand years or more. The following books are
offered as mere suggestions... Click on an author's name for pricing and purchasing details of their books
Tomás Ó Canainn, 'Traditional Music in Ireland'
An excellent overview of style and structure.
Breandán Breathnach , ‘Folk Music and Dances of Ireland’
song, dance, music and instruments. A classic from 1971.
David Johnson, 'Scottish Fiddle Music in the 18th Century' and 'Music and Society in Lowland Scotland in the Eighteenth Century'
Musical scores and extensive commentary, including consideration of Gaelic harp music preserved by the fiddlers.
John Purser, 'Scotland's Music'
The complete overview from prehistoric times to the 20th century, with plenty of illustrations and musical scores
Cedric Thorpe Davie, 'Scotland's Music'
A slim old overview.
Scottish Life and Culture, 'Oral Literature'
A collection of essays on traditional music and song.
I.F. Grant, 'Highland Folk Ways'
Traditional ways of life on the croft, furniture, clothing, tools etc.
Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus, 'The Highland Lady in Ireland'
A 19th century journal.
Johnson & Boswell, 'A Tour to the Hebrides'
The 18th century travellers' accounts of the west Highlands and islands.
John Evelyn, 'Evelyn's Diary'
A 17th century English diarist.
Phyllis Kinney, 'Welsh Traditional Music'
An overview of Welsh music from late medieval times through to the early 20th century.
John Koch,, 'The Gododdin of Aneirin - Text and Context from Dark Age North Britain'
An edition of this important early medieval poem.
Andrew Taylor, 'The songs and travels of a Tudor minstrel'
A detailed look at the life and music of a 16th century English harper.
Kåre A Lie, 'Spor av Vikingenes Sanger / Traces of the Songs of the Vikings'
Investigation into the evidence for early medieval Scandinavian music.
Irish high crosses
Some books about these fascinating early medieval stone sculptures
Denis Rixson, 'The West Highland Galley'
All about the distinctive ships used by the medieval Gaels of the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
William Donaldson, 'The Highland Pipe and Scottish Society'
Excellent account of how social and cultaral forces changed the traditional music scene.
Hugh Cheape, 'Bagpipes'
An exellent history of Scottish bagpipes.
Joseph MacDonald’s Compleat Theory of the Scots Highland Bagpipe (c.1760)
Edited by Roderick Cannon, a key source for 18th century early Gaelic music style and idiom
Albert Lord, 'The Singer of Tales'
The original academic study of oral tradition music and song. Includes audio CD.
Hipkins and Gibb, 'Musical Instruments, Historic, Rare and Unique'
Luscious colour prints of old instruments, published 1888.
Sebastian Virdung, 'Musica Getutsch'
A treatise on instruments published in 1511.
Marin Mersenne, 'Harmonie Universelle'
A treatise on instruments published in 1635.
Michael Praetorius, 'Syntagma Musicum'
De Organographia - a 17th treatise on instruments with beautiful woodcuts
Vincenzo Galilei, 'Dialogue on Ancient and Modern Music '
A treatise on instruments published in 1581-2, includes an important passage on early Gaelic harps.
Boethius, Fundamentals of Music
English translation of the most important medieval music treatise
Cormac Úa Cuilennáin, Sanas Cormaic
Kuno Meyer's edition of Cormac's Glossary in old Irish
Ephraim Segerman, 'The Development of Western European Stringed Instruments'
Family trees of different types of fiddle, lute, etc. and how they are related to each other.
Mike Parker, 'Child of Pure Harmony'
A handbook for the single action pedal harp.
Thomas Forrest Kelly, 'Early Music: A Very Short Introduction'
From Oxford's VSI series, a superb overview of historical Western art music.
Barry Cunliffe, 'The Celts - A Very Short Introduction'
The best overview of a contentious subject. Who were the Celts?
Simon James, ‘The Atlantic Celts’
What does the word “Celtic” mean, and when should and shouldn’t we use it?
'The Voyage of Saint Brendan'
Translation of the early medieval Irish text, with 15th century woodcut illustrations.
Sean O'Boyle, 'Ogam the Poets Secret'
Very rare and hard to find, a slim paperback on esoteric matters.
Angels, Nobles and Unicorns
Illustrated catalogue from a National Museum of Scotland exhibition of medieval Scottish art.
'The Stirling Heads'
A beautiful presentation of this astonishing Renaissance Scottish artwork that is claimed to include musical notation
Alison Kinnaird, 'Reflections'
Artwork from a prominent modern harpist.
Malachi McCormick, 'The Roots of Music'
Beautiful hand-made books with poetry
Children's books and other story books including Russell Walton, 'A Harp of Fishbones'
Folk tales, myths and anecdotes, historical fiction etc.