Music Collections

The Forde – Pigot collection of Irish airs is the Academy’s main music resource.

The Royal Irish Academy holds a relatively small, but significant, collection of Irish airs, mainly contained in the Forde-Pigot collection. This collection and a number of other items of musical interest have been described in a chapter on the Academy’s music holdings in Aloys Fleischmann (ed.), Music in Ireland: a symposium (Oxford, 1952), 322-32. The author, Miss Caitlín Bonfield, was Academy Librarian, 1961-9. The publishers of the book (now out-of-print) have kindly permitted us to reproduce the text here. The paper was revised and updated by Siobhán Fitzpatrick in 2008.

In addition to the works cited by Miss Bonfield, a number of other sources are deserving of attention. These are:

  • MS 12 R 35, a Missale Romanum (14-15th century, probably Italian). Folios 139v-147r contain musical notation.

  • MS D ii 2, a metrical dindsheanchas: folio 34r includes an illustration of a pig playing bagpipes.

  • RIA MS 12 X 27:  A 19th-century manuscript containing the airs of Irish and Scottish reels, continental tunes and waltzes and the music of some of Moore’s Melodies.  The document lacks some preliminary and end pages.  It contains notes, in Thomas Moore’s hand, relating to some of the Melodies.  The manuscript was purchased at auction in 2009.

  • Early nineteenth-century chap-books containing songs (Shelf mark MS 23 G 32; records accessible via the Main Catalogue).

  • Albums containing cuttings of ballads and songs (Shelf marks MSS 3 C 37; 3 C 38; 3 C 39; catalogue records will be available in 2015 via the Main Catalogue).

The library also holds the book collection of Thomas Moore, 1779-1852, author of the renowned Irish melodies, published from 1808 to 1834. The collection is mainly literary and historical and may be accessed via the Main Catalogue. The Academy also owns an Egan harp, formerly owned by Moore.


Caitlin Bonfield, ‘Manuscript Irish music in the library of the Royal Irish Academy’ in A.G. Fleischmann (ed.), Music in Ireland: a symposium (Oxford, 1952), 322-32

Nicholas Carolan, ‘The Forde – Pigot collection of traditional music’ in B. Cunningham and S. Fitzpatrick (eds.), Treasures of the Royal Irish Academy Library (Dublin, 2009), 256-67

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