Over several years Robert Burns contributed to James Johnson’s The Scots Musical Museum (1787–1803) and later George Thomson’s five-volume A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice, preserving over 300 songs. But a disagreement over the worth of 'The Red, Red Rose' led Burns to offer it to the Scots singer Pietro Urbani, who published it in his volume A Selection of Scots Songs, shown here. It appeared in the second volume of Urbani’s work.
In the preface Urbani states that the lyrics were given to him by ‘a celebrated Scots poet, who was so struck by them when sung by a country girl that he wrote them down and, not being pleased with the air, begged the author to set them to music in the style of a Scots tune, which he has done accordingly’. Burns himself preferred a different tune, ‘Major Graham’, by the celebrated Scottish composer of dance-tunes Niel Gow; this appeared in the edition of The Scots Musical Museum issued in 1797.