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Simon Chadwick's
Early Gaelic Harp Emporium

Books on Turlough Carolan

On this page I present books about the songs, and the tunes, attributed to Turlough Carolan, the famous 18th century Irish harper, composer, singer and songwriter.


The 1st edition
The 1st edition
Click to enlarge
1st edition for sale, click to enlarge

Donal O'Sullivan
Carolan - the life, times, and music of an Irish harper
2 vols, Routledge and Paul, London, 1958
Donal O’Sullivan wrote the definitive book on Carolan, covering in exhaustive detail his tunes, songs, life and other useful information. Though there are ommissions, and problems with the work, it remains the key resource that is the first (and often only) book that you need if you want to know something about the subject.
Vol. 1 has a life of Carolan, as well as notes on such things as his skull and his portrait (though unfortunately not his harp), and 213 tunes presented as single melody line. Vol. 2 has the song lyrics (usually only the first verse of text and translation is given), and background information on each tune, the people connected with it, and the sources for each item. Vol. 2 also contains the Memoirs of Arthur O’Neill. A first edition copy is available now, £250. Vol 1 has a facsimile replacement dustjacket; vol 2 has the original dustjacket in mylar cover. Pencil notes on a few of the tunes, otherwise in good condition all round. Click the photo to see this set enlarged. contact me to enquire about postage and availability.

Donal O’Sullivan’s Carolan - the life, times, and music of an Irish harper was re-issued in a 2 volume paperback reprint by Celtic Music, Louth, England (1991). currently out of stock.

Ossian edition

A single-volume paperback edition of Donal O’Sullivan's Carolan - the life, times, and music of an Irish harper was published by Ossian in 2001, and new copies are available. This book re-sets the music and words on larger format pages, and includes an appendix by Bonnie Shaljean which adds a number of tunes by Carolan, or attributed to him in early sources. Many of the new tunes are from the otherwise unpublished Maclean-Clephane manuscripts.
£30 +

complete works of carolan

Complete Collection of the Much Admired Old Irish Tunes The Original and Genuine Compositions of Carolan the Celebrated Harper and Composer (1670-1738) Suitable for Most Instruments
Ossian Publications, 1984
This book is a popular reprint of just the tunes from Donal O’Sullivan's 1958 book - the tunes are presented without commentary or notes, and also without the words, just as a book of melodies. There is also a 5 page instroduction by Gráinne Yeats, containing a brief life of Carolan. The book is of interest as it also reproduces 13 pages of music facsimile, from the anonymous Carolan Fragment, Neal, The Hiberenian Muse, Lee, one of Bunting’ piano mss and his printed books, Mulholland, Moore’s Irish Melodies, and O’Neill.
One copy only for sale (June 2015). Slightly tatty, missing two pages (supplied with photocopy replacements). £20. contact me to enquire about postage and availability.

complete works of carolan

The Complete Works of O'Carolan Irish Harper and Composer (1670-1738) Suitable for All Melody Instruments.
Ossian, 1989
This is a reprint of the 1984 Ossian edition listed above. This 1989 edition contains different facsimile plates but is otherwise identical inside.
Not in stock.


Amhráin Chearbhalláin

Tomás Ó Máille
Amhráin Chearbhalláin: The Poems of Carolan
Irish Texts Soc., No. 17, 1916
The Irish words to the songs of Carolan, and other North Connacht and South Ulster poets, with an introductions in Irish and English and detailed notes on the manuscript sources and their language, meter and vocabulary. Includes an Irish to English glossary to help you read the poems in Irish. No translation. New hardback facsimile reprint from the Irish Texts Society.
£42 +

Carolan Reassesments

Liam P. Ó Murchú (ed)
Amhráin Chearbhalláin: The Poems of Carolan - Reassesments
Irish Texts Soc., Subsidiary Series No. 18, 2007
This slim volume contains five essays from a conference held in 2006, on various aspects of Carolan’s songs and music. Nicholas Carolan’s article on the music has some interesting comments and information, but is old-fashioned, and seems to show no awareness of Gaelic harp scholarship of the last decades. Emily Cullen on Bards and Irish harping in the 18th and 19th centuries is disappointing, and plagiarises this website by lifting 2 paragraphs almost verbatim and unacknowledged. The other essays, on Carolan’s audience, his verse, and on Tomás Ó Máille, are very useful and interesting.
£25 +

Other Irish Text Society volumes are available by special order; please contact me for details.