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Back to the Future: De Ville's The Concertina and How to Play It and Other Tutors
By Randall C. Merris (, October, 2001





Paul de Ville, The Concertina and How to Play It (New York: Carl Fischer, Inc., 1905) is one of the most widely available sources of basic instruction and tunes for the Anglo concertina. A recent printing features a new cover, a slightly enlarged format, and a retail price of about $10. Copies of earlier printings have sold for $25 or more in the secondary market. Buyers and sellers have assumed that these copies were printed in 1905 or soon thereafter. However, all copies that I have seen in the secondary market were printed from the 1950s onward.[1] In fact, when the book first appeared in 1905, it was titled as The Eclipse Self Instructor for Concertina[2] (see Fig. 1).


The Concertina and How to Play It has links to both earlier and later periods. Most of its tunes and other material were taken from earlier publications, and most of its contents reappeared seventy years later in Bob Kail, The Best Concertina Method—Yet! (Carlstadt, NJ: Ashley Publications, 1975).


The Predecessors of De Ville's Book


The Concertina and How to Play It has the same basic organization as many Anglo concertina books that predated it. Like these books, The Concertina and How to Play It contains sections on (1) reading music (staffs, key and time signatures, time value of notes, etc.); (2) use of the concertina (holding the instrument, using the air valve, understanding the button layout, using the tablature, etc.); (3) a few scales and exercises; and (4) tunes in standard musical notation and tablature. The Concertina and How to Play It, like many earlier books, is long on tunes and short on instruction. It contains 60 pages of tunes and only 17 pages of other material, including "Rudiments of Music" (10 pages), "Description of the Concertina"(4 pages), and scales and exercises (3 pages).


        Fig. 1. Cover of Paul de Ville, The Eclipse Self Instructor For Concertina, 1905.   


A somewhat surprising discovery is that 208 of the 250 tunes in The Concertina and How to Play It were taken directly from two books by Elias Howe, Jr.[3] (see Figs. 2 and 3)—i.e., 98 tunes from Howe's Eclectic School for the Concertina (Boston: Elias Howe; and Chicago: Howe & Grant, 1879), 108 tunes from Howe's Western German Concertina School (Boston: Elias Howe; and Chicago: Howe & Grant, 1879),[4] and two tunes that appeared in both of these Howe books. With a few minor exceptions, the musical arrangements and tablature in The Concertina and How to Play It are identical to those in Howe's books.[5] Howe's books contain a number of songs with lyrics.  The Concertina and How to Play It includes some of these songs but without the lyrics.



Fig. 2. Cover of Elias Howe, Jr., Howe's Eclectic School for the Concertina, 1879.



The Concertina and How to Play It contains 42 tunes that do not appear in Howe's concertina books. A few of these tunes are still well known—e.g., "Rickett's Hornpipe," "My Old Kentucky Home," "Adestes Fideles," "Rock of Ages," "Nearer My God to Thee," and "Sweet Bye and Bye." The original sources for these 42 tunes have not been documented. Six of theses tunes (i.e., "College Hornpipe," "The Coquette," "Morella's Lesson," "Old Zip Coon," "Rory O'More," and "The Tempest") are the same arrangements as those found in Howe's The Complete Preceptor for the Accordeon (Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1843, 1850, and 1851), suggesting that de Ville appropriated these arrangements and wrote concertina tablature to replace Howe's accordion tablature.


Almost all instructions, scales, and exercises in The Concertina and How to Play It were taken verbatim or in paraphrase from Howe's books. However, the "Rudiments of Music" section of de Ville's book was borrowed elsewhere.[6] This section is larger and more advanced than the "Elementary Rules of Music" in Howe's Eclectic School for Concertina. The advanced material in the section has no direct relevance to the other sections of The Concertina and How to Play It.



Fig. 3. Cover of Elias Howe Jr., Howe's Western German Concertina School, 1879.



The Concertina and How to Play It contains an illustration (taken from Howe's books) of the notes for the 28-key German concertina, even though all tunes in de Ville and Howe's books are tablatured exclusively for the 20-key concertina. The 28-key German concertina had slipped into obscurity long before de Ville's book was published.[7]


The Successor to De Ville's Book


Bob Kail's The Best Concertina Method Yet (1975) contains 249 of the 250 tunes from The Concertina and How to Play It.[8] Except for eradicating the tune numbering and enlarging the pages, Kail reproduced the tunes exactly as shown in de Ville's book.[9] Kail's book contains (1) Elementary Music Principles (1 page), (2) a description of how to hold the concertina and how to read tablature (1/2 page), (3) scales and exercises from de Ville's book, (4) twenty-nine songs arranged by Kail,[10] and (5) the 249 tunes from de Ville's book. Kail structured his book to downplay the acquisition of tunes from de Ville, but made no outright attempt to conceal the fact. The first part of Kail's book contains scales, exercises, and a few tunes from de Ville, interspersed with songs arranged by Kail. The second part contains 235 tunes that are reproduced in the same order--even with the same page numbers--as in The Concertina and How to Play It. The last part contains more songs arranged by Kail and more exercises from de Ville's book, as well as a couple exercises by Kail. The note layout for the 28-key German concertina was not included in Kail's book, and the 20-key concertina diagram in de Ville's book (p. 15) was transformed into a pull-out card to accompany Kail's book. 


Paul de Ville's book contains no table of contents or tune index, and Kail's book contains no tune index. Kail's book has a table of contents, but the tunes taken from de Ville's book are not individually listed therein. A complete index of all instructional material and tunes in The Concertina and How to Play It and The Best Concertina Method—Yet is shown in the annex.[11]


The Kail and de Ville books have similar retail prices, even though The Best Concertina Method—Yet contains almost all of the contents of The Concertina and How to Play It, as well as the songs and exercises not found in de Ville's book. A minor selling point for the de Ville book has been its smaller size (6¾-by-10 inches, compared with 8½-by-11 inches for Kail's book), making it convenient for storage in non-fitted concertina cases. The latest printing has a slightly larger format of 6¾-by-10½ inches.

[1] All printings show "Copyright 1905 by Carl Fisher, New York, Printed in U.S.A." The approximate date of printing can be ascertained from the suggested retail price that is printed on the outside cover. For example, a printing from the 1950s shows "1.35" (i.e., $1.35), and later printings through the mid-1990s show successively higher prices—"2.00," "2.50," "3.00," etc.  

[2] Paul de Ville, The Eclipse Self Instructor for Concertina (New York: Carl Fischer, Inc., 1905) was one of  the "Half Dollar Methods" that Fischer published for various instruments. Paul de Ville authored instruction books for many instruments--accordion, banjo, clarinet, flute, guitar, mandolin, piano, saxophone, trombone, violin, and others. His accordion and organ books were published in 1893, but the majority of his instruction books were published somewhat later—several in 1905 and 1906. The Eclipse Self Instructor for Concertina has a larger format and refers to the instrument as "the German or Anglo-Saxon concertina," whereas The Concertina and How to Play It refers to simply "the concertina." Otherwise, the contents of the books are identical.

[3] Elias Howe Jr. (1820-1895) was a well-known collector of fiddle tunes, music publisher, and instrument maker, dealer, and collector. He published about 200 books, including tutors for many instruments and tune books of which the best known are The Musician's Companion (Boston: Kidder and Wright, 1840) and William Bradbury Ryan, Ryan's Mammoth Collection (Boston: Elias Howe, 1883). This Elias Howe Jr. is sometimes confused with another Elias Howe Jr. (1819-1867), the sewing machine inventor. Both Elias Howes were descendents of John Howe, who settled in Massachusetts in the 1600s. Unacknowledged use of Howe's material was not limited to his concertina books. In the 1980s, it was discovered that One Thousand Fiddle Tunes (Chicago: M. M. Cole Company, 1940) was Ryan's Mammoth Collection in disguise. For more about Elias Howe Jr. and his publications, see Patrick Sky, Ryan's Mammoth Collection (Pacific, Missouri: Mel Bay Publications, 1995), pp. 7-21.     

[4] "New and Enlarged Edition" on the cover of  Howe's Eclectic School for Concertina refers to expansion of Howe's New German Concertina (Boston: Oliver Ditson and Co., circa 1865) and Howe's New Concertina Without a Master. (St. Louis: Balmer & Weber, circa 1870).

[5] The ordering of tunes in de Ville's book consists of a block of tunes from Howe's Eclectic School for Concertina, followed by a block from Howe's Western German Concertina School, followed by another block from Howe's Eclectic School for Concertina, etc. The tunes not taken from Howe's books are interspersed among these blocks. Paul de Ville made some relatively minor changes in a few tunes. He changed the pick-up notes of the "Star Spangled Banner" and inserted accidentals not found in a couple tunes in Howe's books. De Ville passed up 149 other tunes in Howe's books, including "Three Blind Mice," "Santa Lucia," and a few others that are still well known. "Aunt Jemima's Plaster," "Female Auctioneer," "Dog and Gun," and others are now relatively obscure.


[6] It appears that the material came from a nineteenth-century tutor for English concertina.

[7] Export of the 28-key German concertina from Saxony began in the early 1850s. From the late 1850s onward, British makers began developing chromatic Anglos that soon superceded the 28-key German concertina. Illustrations of the note layout of the 28-key German concertina appeared in new editions of Anglo concertina tutors from Britain and the U.S. after the 28-key German concertina had become nearly extinct. For early and later examples, see George Cameron, Cameron's Selection of Concertina Music: Containing Complete Instructions and Scales . . . for the Ten, Twenty, Twenty-Two, and Twenty-Eight Keyed German Concertina (Glasgow: George Cameron, 1857); Joseph R. W. Harding, New and Complete Method for the German Concertina, With Scales for 10, 20, 22, and 28 Keys (London: Metzler & Co., 1858); Alfred B. Sedgwick, Sedgwick's Improved and Complete Instructor for the German Concertina (Boston: Oliver Ditson and Co., 1865 and 1893); and Septimus Winner, Winner's Perfect Guide for the German Concertina (Boston: Oliver Ditson Company, 1869 and 1893). De Ville's book was the last that showed the layout for the 28-key German concertina.

[8] "When the Swallows Homeward Fly" was omitted. 

[9] Two tunes with racist titles—"Ten Little N----rs" [blanks inserted] and "The Jim Crow Polka"—were taken from Howe's concertina books. In later printings, "Ten Little N----rs" was retitled as "Ten Little Soldiers" in de Ville's book and as "Ten Little Dancers" in Kail's book. The most recent printing of both books still contain "The Jim Crow Polka."


[10] These are American standards ("Blue Tail Fly," "Careless Love," "O Susanna," "Darling Clementine," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Silent Night," etc.) and a couple international standards ("Cielito Lindo" and "O Sole Mio"). Some have only single-note melody lines; others have separate melody and accompaniment parts. Lyrics are included for all songs except the "The Entertainer."

[11] On request, I will email an MS WORD file for printing and assembling the index as an 8½-by-5½ inch booklet that can be stored in a concertina case. Just (1) print the file, (2) make a double-sided photocopy, (3) cut across the middle of the photocopied pages, and (4) rearranging the cut pages.  






Paul de Ville, The Concertina and How to Play It (New York: Carl Fisher, 1905).


Bob Kail, The Best Concertina Method—Yet! (Carlstadt, NJ: Ashley Publications, 1975).



De Ville Only De Ville
When the Swallows Homeward Fly 20
Kail Only (All with lyrics except The Entertainer) Kail
A Bicycle Built for Two 83
Battle Hymn of the  Republic 15
Careless Love 13
Cielito Lindo  7
Down by the Riverside 93
Frankie and Johnny 96
I Love You Truly 21
In the Good Old Summertime 85
I've Been Working on the Railroad 86
Little Brown Jug 19
My Darling Clementine 81
Wild Irish Rose 18
On Top of Old Smoky 84
O Sole Mio 90
O Susanna 10
Scarborough Fair 20
She'll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain 80
Shenandoah 11
Silent Night 22
Sweet Rosie O'Grady 92
The Blue Tail Fly 14
The Camptown Races  84
The Cruel War Is Raging 91
The Entertainer   82
The Man on the Flying Trapeze 81
The Marines' Hymn  8
There Is a Tavern in the Town 89
The Wabash Cannonball 12
When the Saints Go Marching In 9



Tune De Ville Kail
Adeste Fideles 79 79
Air from Lucia di Lammermoor 60 60
A Life on the Ocean Wave 41 41
Alps 72 72
America 23 23
Am I Not Fondly Thine Own 38 38
Annie Laurie 43 43
Anvern 69 69
Arkansas Traveler 53 53
As I'd Nothing Else To Do 28 28
Augusta's Favorite 20 16
Auld Lang Syne 45 45
Bachelor's Hall 31 31
Balerma 67 67
Beautiful Belle 39 39
Beautiful Nell 29 29
Be Gone, Dull Care 34 34
Be Joyful in God, All Ye Lands of the Earth 75 75
Belle Brandon 37 37
Benevento 72 72
Blue Bells of Scotland 36 36
Bonnie Blue Flag  24 24
Bonnie Dundee 25 25
Bonny Doon 34 34
Boston Hop Waltz 63 63
Bower of Prayer 72 72
Brian Boru 27 27
Bryan O'Lynn 22 17
Cambridge  69 69
Camptown Hornpipe 25 25
Canaan 76 76
Castles in the Air 33 33
Cephas 71 71
Charley Over the Water 22 16
Charming Young Widow, or Mantle So Green  28 28
Chinese Dance, or Hark the Merry Bells, from Stradella  51 51
Chinese March 56 56
Chorus Jig 49 49
Cinderella Waltz 63 63
Clarance 70 70
Clifford 75 75
Clog Dance No. 2 52 52
Colchester 69 69
College Hornpipe, or Sailor's Hornpipe 51 51
Columbian Grand March  57 57
Come, Come, Soldiers, Come 45 45
Come, Good Shepherd 68 68
Come Ye Disconsolate 73 73
Comin' Thro' the Rye 20 17
Conway 70 70
Coronation March ("Prophet") 56 56
Cracovienne 21 6
Dallas 72 72
Dearest Spot on Earth To Me Is Home 46 46
Dedham 72 72
Diamond Schottische 64 64
Dixie 24 24
Do They Think of Me at Home? 38 38
Dover 68 68
Dream of the Ocean Waltz 62 62
Drunken Sailor, or The Monkey's Wedding 52 52
Duane Street 77 77
Duke Street 74 74
Effingham  69 69
Elfin Waltz 64 64
Ever of Thee 36 36
Fairy Waltz 62 62
Favorite Song ("Lucia di Lammermoor") 45 45
Federal Street 74 74
Flora's Birthday 26 26
Flying Cloud Schottische 65 65
Fred Wilson's Clog Dance No. 1 52 52
Gabriella Polka 59 59
Gallopade Quadrille 59 59
Garibaldi March 57 57
Gay and Happy 59 59
Glory Hallelujah 34 34
Golden Hill 68 68
Grand March in Norma 54 54
Greenville 76 76
Hail, Columbia 24 24
Hail to the Chief 51 51
Hamburg 69 69
Haste to the Wedding 53 53
Hebron 67 67
Helter Skelter, or Over Sticks and Stones Galop 58 58
Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still  46 46
Hervey 71 71
Hob or Knob, or the Campbells Are Coming  54 54
Home, Sweet Home 21 16
How Beauteous Are Their Feet 75 75
How Can I Leave Thee? 47 47
Hunting the Hare, or The Calais Packet 51 51
I'd Offer You This Hand of Mine 43 43
If I Had But a Thousand a Year 28 28
I Heard the Wee Bird Singing  23 23
Il Bacio Waltz (The Kiss Waltz) 62 62
I'm Leaving Thee in Sorrow, Annie 35 35
Immortellen Waltz 60 60
Indian Death Song 21 6
I Need Thee Every Hour 79 79
In Happy Moments ("Maritana")  33 33
In the Lonely Grove ("Linda") 44 44
Irish Washerwoman 50 50
Italian Hymn 74 74
It Is Better to Laugh Than Be Sighing 44 44
I've Nothing Else to Do 48 48
Jefferson and Liberty 53 53
Jerusalem the Golden 38 38
Jim Crow Polka 58 58
John Anderson, My Joe [Jo] 30 30
Johnny Sands 27 27
Jordon 71 71
Jordon Am a Hard Road 50 50
Kate Kearney 49 49
Kathleen Mavourneen 48 48
Keemo Kimo  32 32
Kildoughalt Fair 40 40
Kitty of Coleraine 32 32
Lament of the Irish Emigrant 32 32
Lancers Quadrilles (Nos. 1-5) 65-66 65-66
Land of Rest 71 71
Land of Sweet Erin 49 49
Lanesboro' 77 77
Larry O'Gaff  41 41
Last Rose of Summer 37 37
Lisbon 76 76
Lischer 73 73
Listen to the Mocking Bird 38 38
Listen to the Nightingale 20 17
Little Maggie May 29 29
Lord Lovell   22 6
Louisville March 55 55
Lucia March ("Lucia di Lammermoor")  46 46
Mabel Waltzes 60 60
Maiden's Prayer 37 37
Maid of Judah, or Silver Moon 42 42
Marching Along 35 35
Marching Thro' Georgia 26 26
Martyrdom 70 70
Maryland, My Maryland 24 24
Mary of Argyle 35 35
Massa's in the Cold, Cold Ground 26 26
Matrimonial Sweets 44 44
Mendon 71 71
Millennium Dawn  76 76
Missionary Hymn 77 77
Moll Roon  41 41
Molly Bawn 31 31
Money Musk 54 54
Morella's Lesson 34 34
Moulton 68 68
Mountain Maid's Invitation 44 44
My Bible leads to Glory 78 78
My Old Kentucky Home  27 27
Nashville 77 77
Nearer, My God to Thee 78 78
Nichols 70 70
Nobody Going to Marry Me?  28 28
No, Ne'er Can Thy Home Be Mine 22 17
Norah, The Pride of Kildare 30 30
O Haste, Crimson Morn ("Lucia di Lammermoor") 45 45
Oh, Hear Me, Norma 36 36
Oh! How Happy Are They 77 77
Oh! I Should Like to Marry  36 36
O, Lassie, Art Thou Sleeping Yet? 46 46
Old Folks at Home 26 26
Old Hundred 67 67
Old Rosin the Beau 23 23
Old Zip Coon, or Turkey in the Straw  50 50
Oliphant 74 74
O, Nanny, Wilt Thou Gang With Me 58 58
On the Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz 61 61
On the Road to Boston 53 53
Ortonville 70 70
Over the Summer Sea ("Rigoletto") 42 42
Pas Styrien 42 42
Peace, Troubled Soul 78 78
Peterborough 67 67
Pirates Chorus, or Ever Be Happy 31 31
Pop Goes the Weasel 47 47
Prescott 74 74
Prima Donna Waltz 63 63
Pulling Hard Against the Stream 29 29
Raw Recruits, or Abraham's Daughter 35 35
Ricket's [Rickett's] Hornpipe 25 25
Robin Adair 25 25
Rochester Schottische 64 64
Rock of Ages 78 78
Rory O'More 49 49
Roses Waltz 61 61
Russian National Anthem 67 67
Sally, Come Up 47 47
Saw Ye, My Saviour 72 72
Scotch March 55 55
Shabby Genteel  48 48
Shining Shore 39 39
Shule Aroon 41 41
Sicilian Hymn 68 68
Soldier Laddie, or Independence Day 42 42
Spanish Dance 52 52
Spanish Waltz 61 61
Sparking Sunday Night 22 6
Star-Spangled Banner 23 23
St Louis Quickstep 57 57
St. Martin's 70 70
St. Patrick's Day in the Morning 39 39
Strike the Cymbal 21 6
St. Thomas 68 68
Sweet Afton 43 43
Sweet Bye and Bye 78 78
Sweet Memories of Thee 43 43
Swiss Boy 44 44
Teddy, You Gander, or Bully for You 40 40
Tempest Quickstep 54 54
Ten Little Soldiers (De Ville)
Ten Little Dancers (Kail)
Ten Little N-----s" [blanks inserted] in early printings
28 28
The Coquette  21 17
The Bell Goes A-ringing for Sai-rah 29 29
The Bright, Rosy Morning 33 33
The Flag of Our Union 25 25
The Girl I Left Behind Me 37 37
The Harp That Once Thro' Tara's Hall 30 30
The Heart That Feels No Sorrow 39 39
The Lord is Our Shepherd 76 76
The Low-Backed Car, or The Jolly Ploughman 40 40
The Merriest Girl That's Out 30 30
The Morning Light Is Breaking 73 73
The Old Arm-Chair 32 32
The Peri Waltz 60 60
There Is a Fountain 79 79
The Stars and Stripes For Ever 23 23
The Tempest 50 50
The Witches' Dance 51 51
Troas 73 73
Twilight Dews 22 16
Uxbridge 73 73
Virginia Quickstep 59 59
Washington March 55 55
We Wont Go Home Till Morning 27 27
What's a' the Steer, Kimmer 33 33
When Johnnie Comes Marching Home 31 31
Widow Machree 40 40
Wilmot 68 68
Windham 67 67
Within a Mile of Edinboro' Town 47 47
Woodstock 73 73
Yankee Doodle 23 23
Zion 67 67
Zouave Quickstep 56 56




Exercise (As Numbered in De Ville) De Ville  Kail
No. 1    Notes on the concertina (20 key) 17  
No. 2    Scale of C Major 17 4
No. 3    Scale of G Major 17 4
No. 4    Right Hand, C Major 18 5
No. 5    Left Hand, C Major 18 11
No. 6    Right Hand, G Major 18 5
No. 7    Left Hand, G Major 18 11
No. 8    Right Hand, C Major 18 5
No. 9    Right Hand, C Major 18 5
No. 10   Right Hand, C Major 19 5
No. 11   Left and Right Hand, C Major 19 17
No. 12   Left and Right Hand Together, C Major  19 88
No. 13   Left and Right Hand Together, G Major  19 88
No. 14   Left and Right Hand Together, C Major 19 88
Exercise (Kail Only)    
Left Hand Accompaniment and Multiple Notes   87-88
Scale of the German Concertina With 28 Keys (Antiquated)   16  
Diagram of 20-Key Concertina  15 Pull-out


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