The Rook Manuscript was created in 1840 and consists of over 1260 tunes including over 80 sets of variations. One of the intriguing things about the manuscript was that the cover including an illustration of instruments (flute, fiddle, northumbrian smallpipes, flutina, bugle/trumpet) that Rook stated that he played (and the contents also referenced some of these instruments). The smallpipes in particular were puzzling as the form shown had only been invented 40 years earlier – and yet Rook gave his location as Cumberland; how was Rook, living in rural Cumberland, connected to the very small group of earlier pipers centered in North Shields?
The manuscript is only known through a photocopy – the original is now lost – but almost nothing was known about John Rook for the last 40 years. After much puzzling and research I’ve now finally found John Rook – and not only has he been found but he can now be placed in North Shields and we have details of his musical activities – in his own hand.
All of the information and the music has been compiled into a new book coming out 30th July. There’ll also be a spiral bound players manuscript of just the music (for playability). Subscriptions for the book open on the 22nd April and will run to the beginning of June.
You can also take a look at the photocopy here – and shortly you’ll be able to buy the book or the players manuscript here. The ABC transcription of the manuscript will also be made freely available in the summer.