Burns: Poems and Songs

Burns: Poems and Songs

Burns: Poems and Songs

Burns: Poems and Songs


This edition of Burns's poems and songs is taken from Professor Kinsley's three-volume Oxford English Texts edition (Clarendon Press 1968) hailed as the first really scholarly and critical edition for more than seventy years. It contains all of Burns's writings, including those reasonablyattributed to him.


The text of this book has been set from corrected proofs of my three-volume edition published in the Oxford English Texts in 1968. It is based on Burns's holographs, and transcripts revised in his hand; the authoritative Kilmarnock (1786) and Edinburgh (1787-94) editions of his Poems, chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (some copies with autograph corrections and additions); Johnson Scots Musical Museum (1787- 1803) and Thomson Select Collection of Original Scotish Airs (1793- 1818); transcripts of manuscripts which are not at present accessible; and early printings in newspapers, periodicals, and tracts.

Due weight has been given to the 1786-94 editions of the Poems, and to the surviving parts of Burns's manuscript copy for the printer. in using these editions as copy-text, I have normally followed the first, collated with subsequent printings. Apparently authoritative variants from these have been admitted, and silently brought into conformity with the copy-text. the typography of titles, notes, and names of airs has been standardized; long 's' and merely typographical devices have been discarded. Interpolations from other manuscripts, and passages of dubious authority or not by Burns, are enclosed in square brackets.

The greater part of the text, however, is based on autographs. About 800 manuscripts, relating to rather more than two-thirds of the poems and songs, have been collated. This material is not only extensive but varied in bulk and character: isolated poems, fragments, drafts, fair copies for friends and editors; poems accompanying or included in letters; inscriptions in books, on windows, a goblet, and a bank-note; sets of poems haphazardly got together by collectors; gatherings made by Burns for his friends; and his commonplace books. Most of the songs survive in single manuscripts; but for some of the poems eight or more holographs have been collated. This edition, therefore, omitting the apparatus criticus and textual commentary of the Oxford English Texts edition, provides material only for an elementary study of Burns's craft. But it offers to the student and the general reader, for the first time, a complete text of Burns's acknowledged work--and of poems reasonably attributed to him--based on a critical review of all the accessible manuscripts and early printings.

The canon of Burns's work will probably never be fully established. the core is firm enough: it consists mainly of the Kilmarnock and Edinburgh editions, the signed contributions Burns made to the four volumes of The Scots Musical Museum which appeared in his lifetime, and original poems which were unpublished at his death but survive in . . .

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