Cole’s 1000 Fiddle Tunes (and its original incarnation Ryan’s Mammoth Collection) is to me the single most influential collection for fiddle playing in North America – particularly for Canada, New England (it was originally published in Boston by Elias Howe), and the Midwest. It is a decent resource for Scottish tunes and contains an ample portion of common Irish jigs, too.
M. M. Cole Publishing Co. of Chicago took the original layout and plates from the Ryan book and reissued it in 1940 under its now more common name Cole’s 1000 Fiddle Tunes. The Ryan book had 1050 tunes, but some slick Chicago marketer probably thought it would be catchier to pitch 50 tunes out for an even 1000). For years I’ve had the iteration of the book, which appears to the left. Most of fiddlers I knew in Mid-Missouri owned a copy, whether they could read music or not. I got this one in the late 70s (this printing is dated Copyright 1967) at Shaw Music in Columbia, MO. If I’ve opened this book once, then I’ve opened it 1000 times. It contains so many tunes from Missouri and Canada and continues to be a source for resurrecting “new” tunes.
I also have a copy of a later printing (probably from the early 80’s) with a yellow cover. It carried the moniker “The Fiddler’s Bible”, which is not far from the truth I think. Unfortunately, it had a not so durable glued binding that had to be cracked to lay the book open and soon pages were be falling out. The pink version had a nice stapled binding that opened out flat on the music stand and the binding of mine, now decades old, is still intact.
For years I’ve been looking for an original from 1940 and last week found one being offered on Ebay for 18 $CAD and with the exchange rate being what it is, that is a very good price. I’ve really enjoyed looking through it. It’s pretty dog-eared though so doubt if I’ll actually be using it much for actually learning tunes.
I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in the music of the regions cited above. This is Victorian Era fiddle music at its best. While Cole’s 1000 is out-of-print, the original Ryan book of 1050 has been reissued by Mel Bay and you should be able to order it from numerous on-line sources or your local music store.
Download a PDF of the original Ryan’s HERE.