Major collection of Irish musical manuscripts, notebooks and correspondence etc concerning the work of the Irish Music Collector and Musician, Edward Bunting (1773-1843) arising out of the Belfast Harpers Festival of 1792 and published in ‘A General Collection of Ancient Irish Music’ in 1796 (revised 1809 and 1840).
The collection consists mainly of musical manuscripts compiled and notated by Bunting during the festival and on his subsequent tour of Ireland, 1792-c 1810 and notebooks of lyrics in both Roman and Gaelic script compiled by the Irish Scholar, Patrick Lynch of Loughinisland, Co. Down, during his tour in 1802 which he undertook on Bunting’s behalf. Other miscellaneous items of note include a memoir and autobiography of the Irish harpist, Arthur O’Neill of Co.Tyrone, a diary kept by Lynch during his travels in 1802 and a folio of letters to Bunting, c 1802-1840 from friends and associates interested in his work. Included in this last item are letters from James McDonnell, one of the principal organisers of the Belfast Festival of 1792, Patrick Lynch and various plates depicting musical instruments, harps and the harpists, Arthur O’Neill and Denis Hempson of Magilligan, Co. Derry. The collection also contains copies of the three principal editions of Bunting’s work, published in 1796, 1809 and 1840 as well as manuscript scores by Bunting’s older brother, Anthony, from 1843.
The principal strength of the Bunting Collection derives from the unique nature of their contents. Bunting's work in recording the repertoire of the Irish harpers represents a very early example of an oral history project. Through his work, Bunting ensured that the melodies and songs of some of Ireland's ancient music was preserved for future generations to come. The collection is notable for illustrating not only the wealth of the material being performed by itinerant musicians in the late 18th century, but also for reflecting the cultural sensibilities of the age with Belfast leading the way in promoting the preservation of Irish culture and traditions.
The Bunting Collection includes mainly original handwritten manuscripts (both music and text), notebooks, bound volumes, monographs, letters and photographic plates amounting to approx. 250 items, c 1791-c 1856. Facsimiles of the principal musical manuscripts are available on request.
Queen's Univeristy Belfast has legal ownership of these materials.