Though undated on the title page, this volume of The Scots Musical Museum was published in 1797. The Scots Musical Museum was a series of publications by James Johnson which preserved the musical tradition of Lowland Scotland (at this time Gaelic was still in use in the Highland regions).
What was Robert Burns’s involvement with the collection?
The Preface is a eulogy of Robert Burns of whom Johnson writes,
He has not only enriched it with a variety of beautiful and original songs composed by himself, but his zeal for the success of the Scots Musical Museum prompted him to collect and write out accurate copies of many others in their genuine simplicity.
Burns for his part described Johnson as someone whose ‘sentiments are so congenial to my own’.
The six-volume Scots Musical Museum was initiated, printed and published by Johnson between 1787 and 1803. Johnson was on the point of publishing a collection of Scots, English, and Irish songs when he met Burns, and was encouraged by Burns’s skill and energy to develop it into a purely Scottish collection. Johnson’s role as an editor allowed Burns a free hand in selecting and writing for inclusion such important works as ‘A Red, Red Rose’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’.