Rare Piping Books
  • $325.00
    “The Piper in Peace and War,” Dr. C. A. Malcolm, 1927 First edition, signed

    This book contains no music, but it does contain plenty of history, drawings and photographs concerning piping in the Highland regiments during and between various wars up to the time of its publication in 1927. It is well researched and well written, and we have derived a good deal of knowledge of some famous pipers of the past from the profiles in final chapter of the book entitled “Some Well Known Army Pipers.” His entry on George S. McLennan begins:

    “A son of Lieut. John McLennan, George began his eventful career at the age of 10 by playing by royal command before H.M. Queen Victoria; a year later he won the Juvenile National Championship for marches, strathspeys and reels….”

    This particular book is not hard to come by if you troll antique book sites, but not too many are signed by the author. On the inside facing page is the autograph “Dr. Malcolm, 16th June ’44.” To see the Table of Contents, click here.

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  • $165.00
    A Professional Piper in Peace and War, John Wilson, Edinburgh/Toronto

    John Wilson (1906-1979) was one of the great players on either side of the Atlantic during the early and mid-1900s. He was in his prime as a competitor during the 1930s and 1940s around the games in Scotland, his name appearing at the top of the lists in the premier events against the best there was: Robert Reid, Robert Brown, Robert Nicol, J.B. Robertson and more. It was all the more remarkable that he accomplished this after having lost most of his left-hand thumb and first two fingers in an accident as a boy.

    In 1948 he emigrated to Toronto and became a prime influence in the rise of the Ontario piping scene from the 1950s until his death in 1979, teaching Reay Mackay, Billy Gilmour, Bill Livingstone, Bob Worrall, Michael Grey and scores more.

    His 1978 autobiography tells his life story in the unabashed and outspoken voice he used all of his life and that made him one of the most entertaining figures in piping. This copy is in excellent condition but for some staining and wear on the dust jacket. It is signed by Wilson to an Ian MacPherson just five months before Wilson passed away.

    For more on the life of John Wilson, click here.

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    Willie Ross, Books 1-5, bound

    SOLD – Pipe Major William Ross is one of the most influential pipers in history and his series of five books, released between the 1920s and the 1950s, are certainly the most significant series of light music books ever published. Nearly all of the competition classics were published here, most for the first time in settings that we still play today. This bound collection has been well used but is still in very good condition. A previous owner has tabbed the beginning of each book.

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    “Ceol Mor,” c.1900, compiled and edited by Major C. S. Thomason (1833-1911)

    SOLD – Thomason’s Ceol Mor is the largest single collection of piobaireachd ever produced. It contains 278 tunes in a small volume that measures 5” x 8.75” to fit nicely into pipe cases of the day.

    He accomplished this feat by developing his own musical shorthand. It was a double-edged sword. Although the most significant collection of the day, it was not widely embraced except by the true students and aficionados.

    Still, it remains one of the prime authoritative works of piobaireachd. It was influenced by the published and unpublished collections of Angus Mackay and Donald Macdonald, as well as Thomason’s personal relationships with luminaries of the day, including Donald, Keith and Colin Cameron, John MacDougall Gillies, and Angus Mackay’s nephew Donald Mackay.

    In his seminal publication “The Highland Pipe and Scottish Society: 1750 to 1950,” Dr. William Donaldson praises Thomason’s “light touch” as an editor. He remained true to his sources. Ironically, Thomason would become founding president of the ill-fated first iteration of the Piobaireachd Society. He was subsequently ousted in favour of an administration whose editing touch was far from light, and the first five books published by the fledgling group under Thomason’s leadership were withdrawn.

    Dated 1900, it is not entirely clear when this edition of Ceol Mor was published. There had been limited-run earlier editions produced for those in Thomason’s inner circle, but this is the edition that was most widely circulated within the piping community.

    This book has had its leather binding replaced long ago – a professional job, with the title appearing in gold embossing. There is slight wear on the corners but overall the book is in superb condition.

    If you are a collector pipe music, Ceol Mor is primo collection. Click here to see the Table of Contents.


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    “The Pipes of War,” John Grant and Bruce Seton, 1920

    SOLD – This remarkable pair of books was published in 1920 and only 200 were produced. It is extremely rare to acquire both.

    The music book contains 49 tunes, described as “composed during the Great War.” It measures 10.5” x 8”. It is in good condition with a bit of fraying along the corners.

    The book proper is titled, “The Pipes of War,” subtitled “A Record of the Achievements of Pipers of Scottish and Overseas Regiments During the War 1914-18.” It contains 290 pages of descriptions of the various Highland regiments and their pipers, battles and casualties. It contains a number of beautiful colour plates. This book is hand-numbered 181 of 200.

    Both books were owned by Norman MacDonald, though it appears he may have acquired them at different times. The book of text has written on the inside cover “Norman MacDonald, Greenock, July 1920,” while the book of music is inscribed “Norman MacDonald, Skye.” This Norman MacDonald was the composer of the great competition march “Father John MacMillan of Barra,” and several good jigs, including “Alex MacDonald.”

    These books are sold only as a pair. To see the Table of Contents of the text book, click here.  To see the Table of Contents of the music book, click here.

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    Angus Mackay’s “A Collection of Ancient Piobaireachd,” 1899 edition

    SOLD – Angus Mackay (1813-1859) is generally regarded as the most influential piper of all time, and this collection was his masterwork. It was first published in 1838.

    This printing is often mistaken for a first edition because the title page shows the 1838 date. The difference is this: the 1899 edition was published by “LOGAN & COMPy,” while the 1838 edition title page shows “Edinburgh, published by the editor to be had at McClary’s library.” Very few first editions survive.

    The 1899 edition is a beautiful book, printed clearly with all 61 tunes written out in full. It includes significant historical notes on early competitions and pipers, though it is generally agreed that these may not have been written by Mackay himself.

    This book is in excellent condition, a bit dog-eared on the corners. It measures 13” x 10.5”. The binding is slightly loose with wear but still very good. Click here to see the Table of Contents.

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    Ross’ Pipe Music, Revised Edition Compiled and Edited by Uilleam Ross, Queen’s Piper

    SOLD – Not to be mistaken for Pipe Major Willie Ross of Edinburgh Castle, William Ross (1823-1891) was Piper to Queen Victoria from the time Angus Mackay was committed to an insane asylum in 1854 until his own death in 1891. He was also a pipemaker – though Henry Starck made most of his instruments — and a significant compiler of pipe music.

    Of this collection, Dr. William Donaldson says in The Highland Pipe and Scottish Society, 1750-1950:

    Every piobaireachd in the collection is published in staff notation for the first time, and these include some of the greatest tunes in the tradition, such as “The Lament for the Children,” “Scarce of Fishing,” “The Lament for Donald Ban MacCrimmon,” “In Praise of Morag,” “MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart,” “The Lament for Mary MacLeod,” “The Battle of the Past of Crieff,” “The Lament for the Only Son,” “The Old Woman’s Lullaby,” and “The Blue Ribbon.”

     The light music section was also innovative. It contained early versions of a good many tunes which were to become standard pieces, including the marches “The Marchioness of Tullibardine,” “The Edinburgh Volunteers,” “The Balmoral Highlanders,” “The Abercairny Highlanders,” “The Glengarry Gathering,” “The Stirlingshire Militia,” “The Atholl Highlanders March to Loch Katrine,” “The 74th’s Farewell to Edinburgh,” “Highland Wedding,” “Leaving Glenurquhart,” and “the 71st Highlanders”….

     The book contains more than 30 piobaireachd and nearly 300 pieces of light music. It went through numerous editions and publications and was still being published and advertised as late as 1925. This particular book was probably published shortly after 1916. It measures 14” x 10.5” and is in excellent condition.

    On the inside facing page, in beautiful calligraphy, is the inscription “To George Taylor Gordon from his Mother and Sister, Christmas 1927.”  Click here to see the Table of Contents.

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    The Kilberry Book of Ceol Mor, compiled by Archibald Campbell, 1948 First edition

    SOLD – Every piper worth his salt knows of or owns “The Kilberry Book.” It contains 118 piobaireachds, compiled by Archibald Campbell of Kilberry (1877-1963) the man who was the mainstay of the Piobaireachd Society through its formative years and up until his death.

    Most will know of the book with its burgundy cover, the last tune being “Lament for Alasdair Dearg MacDonell of Glengarry,” but the first edition was forest green and ended with “Lord Lovat’s Lament.” Four more tunes were added in later editions.

    Measuring 10.5” by 14” this copy is in superb condition, with some minor fraying along the edges of the cover. To see the Table of Contents, click here.

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    “Henderson’s Tutor for the Bagpipe and Collection of Pipe Music” Compiled by Peter Henderson, 1900

    SOLD – Containing 197 tunes, this book was published by the company of Peter Henderson, the famous pipemaker (1851-1902). The tutorial instructions were likely written by William MacKinnon (1840 to 1918), composer of the well-known competition march “The 74th’s Farewell to Edinburgh.”

    Measuring 10.74” x 7”, this volume has been well used, and the cover spine may have been replaced. The book has the following name and address written on the inside front cover: “William Howard McLennan, 9 Regent Street, Rutherglen, Glasgow.” To see the Table of Contents, click here.

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    Pipe Major W. Ross Collection, Book 1, 1923

    SOLD – Willie Ross’s books are ubiquitous. But the earliest editions of his Book 1 are special. They contained John MacColl’s famous composition “Mrs. John MacColl.” Ross had apparently published the tune without permission and was asked by the Clan MacColl Society to remove it from future editions.

    On the inside back cover Patterson Publications advertises reprints of Donald MacPhee’s books and a reprint of Uilleam Ross’s book, likely the same edition for sale elsewhere on this site

    This book measures 10.25” x 7”. The front and back covers are still attached to the main body of the book, but barely. To see the Table of Contents, click here.

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