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This publication originated in a desire which seems to have long been entertained by the public at large, that the Scottish Songs should be put into a shape at once cheap and convenient, and which should at the same time comprehend the important object, literary and typographical correctness. Among the innumerable collections of Scottish Song already in print, it will be readily allowed that there is not one which combines all these advantages, or which is at all worthy of the importance and interest of the subject. Books of this sort are generally crude and hasty compilations from the most obvious sources, got up without the intervention of any responsible editor, and intended for circulation only amongst the humbler orders of the people. Almost the only exception of recent date exists in the voluminous compilation of Mr Allan Cunningham; but it is, on the other hand, so expensive, that it can come into the possession of only a few. It appeared to the editor of the present volumes, that
if a collection could be made, comprising all the really good songs, accompanied by all the information respecting them which can now be recovered, and at once handsome in appearance and cheap in price, the object would be still more decidedly accomplished.
From these motives, and with these views, the present collection was undertaken. It will be found to contain all the songs written in and regarding Scotland, which have either the merit of being old and characteristic, or that of being new and popular. No original songs are admitted, as in most other collections; because it is inconsistent with the idea of a collection of the best songs of a country, that some should be accepted which have not yet endured the ordeal of public taste. In an Introductory Essay, a view is given of all the facts known with certainty regarding Scottish Song in general ; and to almost all the songs are appended notes, containing such anecdotes, and other pieces of information, referring to them individually, as the editor considered necessary for their illustration, or at least mentioning the earliest printed collection in which they are known to have appeared. No songs of an indecorous nature are introduced ; wbile from one or two others which are included, the objectionable passages are silently omitted; the editor judging it better to fit his book, by that very slight sacrifice, for the use of the tasteful, the fair, and the young, than to consult the wishes of the antiquary; who, after all, has but little reason to complain of such violations, seeing that the songs are to be found, in all their native beauty, in the collections of Ramsay and Herd.