ArticlesNo. 29, Spring 1980

The Meyer Manuscript: An 18th-Century American Tunebook


The Meyer collection includes an 18th-century American tunebook in manuscript. This oblong tunebook, catalogued under the call number TN4/M294/T, is bound in a soft cloth cover and measures 16.5 by 10.5 centimeters. There are ‘thirty-seven folios, each with entries on both recto and verso. Unfortunately the manuscript contains neither a date nor an owner’s signature, and it is not known where or from whom Henry Meyer acquired it. Although the possibility of determining its exact provenance and date is scant, the theoretical introduction, the musical notation, and especially the repertory of the manuscript all point directly to a New England origin and a date in the second half of the 18th century. Because of its apparent reliance on previously published materials, the Meyer manuscript cannot be said to be as significant as, for example, the Waterhouse manuscript, which transmits pieces copied before their first publications. Nevertheless, the Meyer manuscript does perhaps tell us something about the manner of performing psalm- and fuging-tunes in 18th century America when singers were scarce.