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Hesburgh Libraries

Rare Books & Special Collections

Guide to the Fasola Tunebook

MSN/EA 9307

 

Collection Summary

Title: Fasola Tunebook
Dates: ca. 1793-1800
Collection No.: MSN/EA 9307
Creator: Unidentified
Extent: 1 item; 1 folder
Language: Collection material in English
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: A manuscript songbook containing 44 songs in fa-so-la notation. Possibly of Pennsylvania origin, it appears to date from the mid to late 1790s. Most of the lyrics are from the poetry of Isaac Watts.

Selected Search Terms

Music -- 18th century.
Music -- 18th century -- Manuscripts.
Music -- America.
Shape-note singing -- United States.

Administrative Information

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this collection

Preferred Citation: Fasola Tunebook, MSN/EA 9307-1, Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

Acquisition and Processing Note: The Fasola Tunebook was purchased by the Hesburgh Libraries in 2016, from Michael Brown Rare Books of Philadelphia (list 133, item 45). Arranged and described by Kathryn Rose Sawyer, 2017. Finding aid by Kathryn Rose Sawyer, 2017.

Biographical Note

The book's authorship is unknown.

Scope and Content Note

This manuscript tunebook, possibly of Pennsylvania origin, features fasola or shape-note notation on five-line staves, accompanied by lyrics. Its corpus of songs suggests that it dates from the mid to late 1790s. The volume, in a period leather binding, includes a table of contents and 44 songs, many of them occupying two facing pages. There are also pages which were ruled and titled but never completed with notes and lyrics. A few leaves are lacking. Of the songs, only 11 appear in other known collections; these are indicated in the list below. A few song titles, including one that is included in another source and one that bears no notes or lyrics, may refer to towns in eastern Pennsylvania (Dauphin, Pitts Town, Williams Town). Other place-name titles include songs found in other collections, with names from Massachusetts (Plymouth, Bridgewater, Ashfield, Williams Town) and Connecticut (Middleton). Many of the songs' take their lyrics from the spiritual poet Isaac Watts (1674-1748); other authors include Daniel Read (1757-1836) and Daniel Belknap (1771-1815). Most of the songs in the manuscript do not note the names of their authors or composers, and the list below has been drawn from cross-referencing tunes and lyrics with current published sources. Most of the tunes remain unverified. The titles refer to the tune itself, with lyrics, mostly from the poetry of Isaac Watts, set to each tune.

The songs are ordered as follows:

Bondage: incomplete lyrics and notation; lyrics by Joel Barlow (1755-1812).

Solomon's Song: verse from Song of Solomon 2:8.

Franklin: tune only, incomplete.

Flanders: verse by Isaac Watts from Psalm 25.

Rome: verse by John Leland (1754-1841); these words were later set to a different tune by Jeremiah Ingalls (1764-1838) in 1805 under the title "The Wandering Pilgrim."

Leghorn: verse by Isaac Watts.

Williams Town: verse by Isaac Watts.

Pilgrims Reward: verse by Isaac Watts.

Delight: verse by Isaac Watts.

Amarica: same verse by Isaac Watts as "Flanders," above.

Concord: verse by Isaac Watts. The same lyrics also appear in The Sacred Harp. The appearance of this song may date this song book to before 1800, after which the same song may have been known by a different name.

Indian Bard - Lyrick Poem: verse by Isaac Watts, as "The Indian Philosopher."

Complaint: verse by Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 102.

Dauphin: verse by Isaac Watts.

Russia: tune by Daniel Read, verse by Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 62. It also appears in the Core Repertory of Early American Psalmody (p. lv), which collects the 101 most printed hymns between 1700 and 1820, and the same lyrics appear in The Sacred Harp.

Rockbridge: verse by Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 17.

Request: verse by Isaac Watts.

Portugal: verse by Isaac Watts.

Sultan: lined and titled but otherwise blank.

Fiducia: verse by Isaac Watts.

Ocean: verse by Isaac Watts. The same lyrics also appear in The Sacred Harp.

Whits Town: verse by Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 107; the tune itself is "Whitestown."

New Durham: verse by Isaac Watts (the page facing, marked "Continued," appears to belong to the next, unknown, tune rather than this one, since the page in between has been removed.) Appears also in the New Harp of Columbia (1867) songbook, #A59, which attributes it to "Austin."

Exhortation: verse by Isaac Watts. Appears also in the New Harp of Columbia (1867) songbook, #155.

Pennsylvania: verse by Isaac Watts.

Hollis: the verse is the same found in the Original Sacred Harp under the tune called "New Salem."

Ulster: lined and titled but otherwise blank.

Mortality: lined and titled but otherwise blank. A song of the same name appears in The Sacred Harp.

Middletown: the Core Repertory of Early American Psalmody (p. xliv), which collects the 101 most printed hymns between 1700 and 1820, attributes this song to Amos Bull. In the manuscript songbook, only the top two voice parts are notated, and it lacks lyrics.

Washington: author unknown, but the lyrics appear in later printed collections of hymns.

Fairfield: verse by Isaac Watts.

Plymouth: lined and titled but otherwise blank.

Pitts Town: by Joseph Addison (1672-1719). The first part has been removed.

Energy: verse by Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 60.

Vital Spark: full heading, "Vital Spark the d[y]ing christian sole [soul] an Anthem Words from Mr. Pope." The text is from a 1712 poem by Alexander Pope (1688-1744). At 6 pages, it is the longest piece in this book.

The Farewell Anthem: The same lyrics also appear in The Sacred Harp and are attributed to Jacob French (1754-1817). One leaf is missing in the middle.

Desire: author unknown, but the lyrics appear in later printed collections of hymns.

Winter: tune by Daniel Read, verse by Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 147. It also appears in the Core Repertory of Early American Psalmody (p. lxv), which collects the 101 most printed hymns between 1700 and 1820, and the same lyrics appear in The Sacred Harp.

Monmouth: verse by Isaac Watts.

Sanbarton: verse by Isaac Watts.

Invitation: verse by Isaac Watts. The same lyrics also appear in The Sacred Harp.

Ashfield: the same lyrics are found in later printed sources with a different tune, and attributed to Daniel Belknap.

Spring: verse by Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 147.

Jerusalem: based on Isaiah 52:1. The heading reads, "Words from Do[cto]r Matse."

Summer: the same lyrics are found in later printed sources, with the song attributed to Daniel Belknap. The heading reads, "Words from Dr. Wats" (presumably Isaac Watts).

Sabrook: verse by Isaac Watts, based on 2 Corinthians 5:1. This tune has five lines of voice parts with what appears to be a "pedal" part below it.

Twentyforth 24th Samtune: by Charles Wesley.

The book's creator is unknown. The front pastedown, partly torn away, bears an ex libris that reads in part: ". . . Thomas [illeg.] Was Born September the 2st [?] in the year of our lord 1766." This presumably refers to the author or another owner. On the last page is inscribed "Singing Book." The pages are numbered, but inconsistently so. This may be one of twelve extant songbooks identified by Nancy F. Vogan in her article "Eighteenth-Century Fasola Tunebooks" (Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 22:2 [April 2001]: 134-145); specifically, one held privately in Ohio that she was unable to examine (p. 144).

What is Shape-Note or Fa-So-La Singing?

Fasola singing is a form of shape-note singing that takes its name from the tones Fa, Sol, and La on the hexachord, or first six degrees of the major scale (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la). In the 16th century, English singers reduced the syllables used to aid in singing to just four (mi, fa, sol, la), and both English and Scottish settlers took this form of singing with them to the American colonies in the 18th century. Shapes were assigned to each of the four notes in place of note heads on the musical staff to aid the singer in sight-singing and learning to read music—a right triangle for fa, an oval for sol, a rectangle for la, and a diamond for mi. The patent for this type of notation was registered in Philadelphia in 1798, though earlier manuscript examples survive. The earliest printed fasola song book dates from 1801, the Easy Instructor. These kinds of books were printed widely between 1801 and 1860, often including an introduction to music theory and singing at the beginning.

Scholarship on fasola singing has been more focused on its role as a folk tradition and community identifier, especially in the American South, rather than on the books themselves. Fasola singing was used as a component in church schools and at community gatherings, spreading outward from New England and the Mid-Atlantic region to points west and south. It continued in the rural South into the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries even as the practice faded in the North.

Arrangement Note

The collection is in a single folder.

Container List

  • Fasola Songbook, ca. 1793-1800. Folder 1 (MSN/EA 9307-01).
    1 volume, 11 x 20 cm., 47 leaves, with 88 pages of manuscript.