Columbia Library columns (v.15(1965Nov-1966May))

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  v.15,no.3(1966:May): Page 25  

"Yankee Doodle:" An Early Version



ROFESSOR Robert Gorham Davis of the English De¬
partment has greatly enriched the music resources of
Columbia University by his generous gift of a trea¬
sured family heirloom, a manuscript volume of tunes that were
popular in America at or near the time of the Revolutionary
War. Among the tunes recorded in the manuscript is an early
version of "Yankee Doodle" which varies markedly from the
melody as we know it today.

Entitled "A Collecrion of Dancing Tunes, iMarches, & Song
Tunes," the leather-bound booklet of thirty-six leaves contains
more than two hundred tune scores, written in a remarkably neat
hand—obviously that of one who was well schooled in transcrib¬
ing music notation. The volume bears on its first page the follow¬
ing inscription: "Whittier Perkins's Book, 1790." Because of that
inscription the manuscript is usually given the provisional date of
"about 1790," even though there is physical evidence to show
that it may have been completed several years before the owner¬
ship inscription was written.

The significance of this manuscript has been known to scholars
for a long time. More than half a century ago, in 1909, it was
described in considerable detail by Oscar G. T. Sonneck, then
Chief of the Music Division of the Library of Congress, in his
Report on "The Star-Spangled Banner," "Hail Columbia,"
"America," "Yankee Doodle." At the time Mr. Sonneck exam¬
ined the manuscript it was the property of Professor Davis's
great-aunt, Mrs. Austin Holden of Boston. It figured importantly
in his researches, for he was able to locate only one or two other
manuscripts of comparable antiquity.

Nevertheless, exhaustive as its treatment was, even the brilliant
Report was compelled to leave the origin of the air of "Yankee

  v.15,no.3(1966:May): Page 25