Paterson’s Publications – A History of the Company

One of the most famous names in the publishing of bagpipe music is that of Paterson’s Publications, not least because of their association with the great collections of P/M Willie Ross, the Logan’s Tutor Book, and regimental collections such as that of the Scots Guards. The name is still current nearly two centuries after it first appeared in the Scottish music industry. We are fortunate that the late Geoff Hore, New Zealand, was able to compile this history of the company before  his passing and for his permission to publish it on Piping Press. This feature adds to the earlier piece Geoff did for us on another publisher Logan’s of Inverness.

A History of Paterson’s Publications
by Geoff Hore

This article stems from research carried out during the update of Roderick Cannon’s ‘A Bibliography of Bagpipe Music’ and he sums up the difficulties he had in the following words: ‘A music book rarely tells much of its own history.  Many of the books described here are undated; most have little if any prefatory text and some are anonymous. Worse still, some of them actually give wrong information, dates and other matter having simply been copied without change from some earlier edition of the same book. For dates we have then to rely on many pieces of evidence – publishers’ names and addresses as compared with those in street directories, trade directories and the like (even telephone directories in some cases); price lists and publishers’ catalogues; dates of events commemorated in tune titles; owners’ signatures and library accession dates; names and Army ranks of composers, and so on – details scarcely significant in themselves, but, together, often enough to fix a date within a year or two.  Curiously enough it is sometimes easier to date an old book than a more recent one, and of all sources of information I have to say that in general the publishers themselves are the least reliable.  More than once I have enquired of a publisher only to be told that he simply cannot remember when a particular work was first put on sale.’

Paterson’s Publications is one publishing company Roderick would have had in mind when he wrote those comments for prior to 1937, they rarely dated their books or indicated the edition number.  Unless stated otherwise the information in this article has been gleaned from various Post Office directories available online.

The firm had its origins in Edinburgh where they were first listed in 1819-20 as Paterson, Mortimer & Co., Musical Instrument Makers, 51 North Bridge Street.  The principals of the company were not named and cannot be identified in earlier editions of the directory but in 1823-24 George Mortimer, Musical Instrument Maker of 370 Castle Hill is linked to the company, as is Robert Paterson of 1 Bellevue Crescent, the following year. In the 1841 census Robert is aged 40 making him only 17 or 18 when he became a partner in the business and this may sound a little surprising.  However an obituary for Robert’s son, R Roy Paterson in 1903, reveals that George Mortimer was Robert’s uncle and this probably explains how a youngster in his late teens could enter the business world in such a high position.  

 In late 1826 George Mortimer left, but Robert Paterson continued in his business and formed a new partnership with P W Roy at 27 George Street where they remained for over 100 years, albeit with changes to the company name. Roy, whose home address is given as 1 Henderson’s Row, had been trading by himself for some years prior to this amalgamation.

It is not known when Paterson, Roy & Co. first became publishers, but c.1835, they did produce some sheet music. In March 2012 a book called ‘Local Melodies of Scotland and other Songs accompanied by the Piano Forte’ (dated c.1835) was advertised for sale and was a compilation of a number of songs published by various firms including Paterson, Roy & Co. The writer has three similar volumes from the late 18th and early 19th century and it was not unusual for sheet music to be bound into handsome volumes.

In the 1841 census Robert Paterson is a music seller, 27 George Street, Edinburgh, aged 40, with three children under 12, two daughters and Robert R Paterson, aged 10, who is undoubtedly Robert Roy Paterson later a partner in the firm.  In 1844-45 John Paterson Jnr joined but it is not known if he was related to Robert Paterson.  At the same time they published ‘Vocal Melodies of Scotland’ by Findlay Dun and John Thomson.  In 1850 they published ‘Lays of Strathearn’ by Baroness Nairne, then later Joseph Lowe’s collection of Strathspeys and Reels and the ‘Skye Collection of Strathspeys and Reels’ by Dr K N MacDonald.  A Scottish composer who was famous in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, Hamish McCunn, also had his early tunes published by Paterson.

R Roy Paterson
R Roy Paterson

In early 1850 P W Roy retired but the firm’s name did not change
until around December of that year when newspaper advertisements started to appear with the new name Paterson, Sons & Co; at the same time John Paterson Jnr became a partner.  Four years later in 1854-55 Robert Paterson seems to have set up in business by himself in Edinburgh.  John Paterson Jnr left Edinburgh in 1857-58 to open a branch in Glasgow and Robert Paterson returned to the Edinburgh business briefly but died 24 October 1859. The National Archive of Scotland has papers relating to various house leases as taken on by Robert Roy Paterson. Called R Roy Paterson in the directories, he and his wife Euphemia had eight children, seven daughters and a son Robert Edouard Stirling Paterson (known as Stirling) born about 1873.

In 1874-75 Patersons became ‘Musicsellers to the Queen’, a fact proudly proclaimed in books published prior to Queen Victoria’s death in 1901. In c.1892 they employed Ernest Donajowski, 2413 Castle Street/Berners Street, as their London agent and the New York branch of Boosey & Co became the distributor in North America. Stirling Paterson became a partner in 1897-98 and the Edinburgh newspapers from that time show he performed at many functions as a cellist.

Prior to 28 May 1910 the firm had branches in the Glasgow, Paisley, Greenock, Oban, Ayr, Dumfries, Kilmarnock and Stranraer. There was some confusion surrounding the name of the company – sometimes they were called Paterson & Sons and other times Paterson, Sons & Co.  In 1918 the two names were standardised to the latter. The Paterson family were still involved with the company over 100 years after its founding and Stirling remained a partner with the Edinburgh branch least as late as 1929. In 1925 a major restructuring of the company occurred when a new publishing branch, Patersons Publications Ltd was created.

The first listing of the Glasgow office was in 1857-58 at 152 Buchanan Street where they were called Paterson & Sons and then the following year Paterson, Sons & Co.  John Paterson Jnr had been a partner at the Edinburgh branch and had moved to Glasgow to run that office.

Very little is known about the Aberdeen branch but in the Post Office directory of 1925 they were listed at 183 Union Street, and the piano factory at Union Wynd.  They were Pianoforte Sellers to HM the King, music sellers and gramophone dealers.

William Murray of 1 Cassilis Street, Ayr is listed in the 1867-68 Ayr Post Office Directory as ‘of Paterson, Sons & Co.’.  No address for the business is given but in 1880-81 it is at 36 Newmarket Street.

The Perth office was not listed in 1862-63 and the next directory available is that of 1865 where they are at 17 Princes Street.  In 1925-26 they had moved to 8 St John’s Place and in 1927-28 they had moved to 38 South Methven Street with a Robert Thomson as the manager.  Two years later in 1929-30 they had expanded to 38-40 S. Methven Street.

The Dundee branch was not listed in the 1880-81 Directory but in 1884-85 they are at 130 Nethergate Street.  In 1891-92 they moved to 36-40 Reform Street and were still there in 1911.

There is only one Directory available for Dumfries and that is 1911-12.  Paterson’s were at 20 English Street and they also had offices in Kilmarnock, Stranraer and Lockerbie

The Paisley office opened in 1888 with J Roy Fraser as manager.  They were in the Terrace Buildings, 109 High Street, and were still there in 1911.  J Roy Fraser, who was also a music teacher and organist at the Middle Parish Church, left the firm 1895-6.

The first mention of Patersons in Greenock was in the 1900-01 directory and they were at 23 West Blackall Street.  They were still there in 1911-12.

Throughout the 19th century, and the first two decades of the 20th century, the firm was very much a Scottish concern with the head office in Edinburgh.  Music publishing was a large part of their business and the Edinburgh and/or Glasgow branches were listed in imprints of their publications.  Sometimes Edinburgh was listed first in the imprints and occasionally that honour befell Glasgow.  There are also some publications with just one of these two offices listed. The early years of the London operation was not a branch but instead from at least 1892 dealt through an agent, Ernest Donajowski, 2425 Castle Street.

In 1923 J Michael Diack (1869 – 1947) became ‘…a director of the Glasgow music publishing house of Pattersons’ (sic) and he compiled many books and sheet music during his time with the company.  One of the earliest bagpipe music books published by them, Pipe Major William Ross’s Collection of Highland Bagpipe Music, appeared in the same year.  The only address in the imprint was 152 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, and the lack of any London address suggests they were not using an agent at that time.  Logan, J Marr Wood Ltd, from Inverness, started off as a pianoforte manufacturing firm in the 1840s and later became music publishers.  From the 1880s they published bagpipe music and this continued until 1923 when they closed down.  Soon after, Patersons and RG Lawrie published some reprints of their books and maybe both firms were in competition to take over the publishing rights.

Paterson’s had acquired the publishing rights from Logan in 1925 and quickly commenced reprinting all their books. Logan’s Tutor and Collection were one shilling each in 1899/1901 and the price gradually increased to 2/- each in 1916/17 where it stayed until about 1941. Logan’s Tutor went through various reprints, and from 1937 nearly all of them were dated revealing a reasonably accurate chronology of the different offices and addresses used. In 1925 when, Paterson’s Publications, 49 West George Street, Glasgow, was formed, it was stated that its purpose was to ‘…acquire that part of the undertaking of Paterson, Sons & Co (Ltd), which relates to music, literary and general publications’.  The formation of this new company was probably the catalyst for them acquiring the publishing rights to all Logan’s books as from that point all known reprints were by Paterson’s Publications.

Paterson’s published ‘Wee Willie Winkie and other Scots Nursery Songs’ by J Michael Diack in 1927.  In 1928 they published books with Oxford University Press and Charles Begg, New Zealand. Begg was a piano and music seller in Aberdeen, Scotland, in the 1850s before migrating to New Zealand where he established a large firm with many branches throughout the country.  The writer purchased his first practice chanter and Logan’s Tutor from the Oamaru branch in June 1963.

In April 1984 Patersons were taken over by Chester Music and Novello & Co., Berners Street, London. A number of bagpipe music books are still being published using the Paterson’s name, the Scots Guards collection for one.

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