Early manuscript of popular Christmas carol

Opening bars of Adeste Fideles [‘O Come All Ye Faithful’] MS Euing R.d.90 superscript 2)

We are grateful to a recent enquirer for bringing this to our attention! – an 18th century manuscript copy of ‘Adeste Fideles’, more familiarly known to Christmas carol singers in its English translation, ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’.
It appears in a volume of works compiled by John Francis Wade (1711/12-1786), a plainchant scholar and publisher of liturgical books. Although there has been much debate over the years as to the identity of the composer and how far the melody ‘borrows’ from existing works, Wade is now generally identified as the author of this piece. Our volume, dated 1750, is among the earliest known copies. According to an article in The Musical Times (W H Grattan Flood, ‘Notes on the history of ‘Adeste Fideles’, 1 June 1915), the only earlier copy was dated 1746 and held by Clongowes Wood College in Ireland. However, an article published 30 years later (Dom John Stephan, O.S.B, Adeste Fideles. A Study On Its Origin And Development, Publications, Buckfast Abbey (1947) claimed that this earlier manuscript had been lost. Another interesting suggestion is that the carol originally carried a Jacobite subtext.
Our 1750 manuscript copy is part of the Euing Music collection. You can see images of all three pages of the carol in our online record MS Euing R.d.90 superscript 2.

Categories: Special Collections

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