Academic journal article The Hymn

The John Beatty Manuscript: An Eighteenth-Century American Tunebook

Academic journal article The Hymn

The John Beatty Manuscript: An Eighteenth-Century American Tunebook

Article excerpt

Recently an eighteenth- century musical manuscript of central Pennsylvania provenance has come to light. The manuscript, apparently copied for his own use by John Beatty, a resident of Armagh Township in present-day Mifflin County, has been passed down to his descendants and is still in the possession of his family.1 A study of this manuscript and a comparison with similar documents from approximately the same time frame and area is instructive for the insight it provides into the repertory of sacred music in rural Pennsylvania and the background of particular tunes.

John Beatty was born in County Donegal, Ireland, on August 12, 1763 Old Style), the son of Stephen Beatty and Christina Duncan. At some point between 1763 and 1770, Stephen and his family immigrated to America, where they settled in Cumberland later Mifflin) County, Armagh Township, Pennsylvania. John served in the Revolutionary War as a private in Captain William Bratton's Seventh Pennsylvania Regiment from February 1777) and in the Eighth Battalion of the Cumberland County militia in 1780-1782. From 1783 through 1786, he was listed in the tax rolls as an unmarried freeman. In the latter year, he married Nancy Glass. The United States census of 1790 lists his household as containing one free white male of sixteen years and upward, and three free white females; ten children were ultimately born of this union. The first tax assessment of Armagh Township after the formation of Mifflin County in 1790 inventoried John Beatty's possessions as 166 acres, two horses, and two cows. He died in 1840 and was buried in the church yard of the Milroy Presbyterian Church, which he had apparently served as an elder. Nancy survived him by two years, dying in 1842.2

The Beatty Manuscript

The Beatty manuscript is approximately twenty-one centimeters by eleven centimeters and contains forty-six pages twenty-three leaves), all but three of which have some sort of writing on them. There are no visible watermarks in the paper. The recto of the opening leaf serves as a title page, with the inscription "John Beatty his Musick Book March 13th. 1782." inside a double-ruled border. The verso of the final leaf contains a further identification, "John Beatty his musick Book and and." The double "and" suggests that Beatty may have gotten interrupted as he was writing, inadvertently wrote "and" again when he returned to it, then was interrupted a second time, and never completed the inscription. Since the only date in the manuscript occurs on the first page this probably represents the point at which he began the collection, and everything written in the book was likely entered on or after March 13 of 1782. Thus the manuscript appears to have been compiled near the end of the Revolutionary War when "shortages of paper and copper and unstable currency brought music publishing almost to a standstill."3

The general layout of the Beatty manuscript is that tunes are written on the recto of a leaf generally two tunes per page), with texts that were apparently intended for use with those pieces transcribed on the facing verso. Such, at least, is the case for the first half of the manuscript; after that point there are occasional blank pages, and pages in which long texts run across both verso and recto. The pages containing the tunes include a border of four parallel lines around the entire page, but the blank pages and those having only text do not contain this decorative feature.4 Similar fourline borders surround the tide of the second tune on each page, making this stand out more clearly. The bar lines, which are used to separate musical phrases rather than to indicate metrical patterns, consist of two parallel vertical lines at a slight angle with short horizontal lines as filler.

The titles of the tunes are written in bold block lettering, with the name of the tune usually followed by a comma, then the words "Tune Tenor."5 The manuscript is written in both black and red ink, with tune names and the capital "T"s that begin the words "Tune" and "Tenor" generally alternating between the colors. …

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