Posted 15 February 2003

Back to the Future: De Ville’s The Concertina and
How to Play It
and Other Tutors

Randall C. Merris


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 Concertina2 (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).

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).

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.

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.

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.

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. [ Back to text ]

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. [ Back to text ]

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. [ Back to text ]

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). Both of the Howe tutors discussed in the text are available in full on this website, Howe’s Eclectic School for the Concertina and Howe’s Western German Concertina School. [ Back to text ]

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. [ Back to text ]

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

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. [ Back to text ]

8 “When the Swallows Homeward Fly” was omitted. [ Back to text ]

9 Three tunes with racist titles—“Ten Little N-----s” [blanks inserted], “Jim Crow Polka”, and “Old Zip Coon”—were taken from Howe’s books. “Ten Little N-----s” was retitled as “Ten Little Soldiers” in de Ville’s book and as “Ten Little Dancers” in Kail’s book. The most recent printings of both books still contain “Jim Crow Polka” and “Old Zip Coon” (now better known as “Turkey in the Straw”). [ Back to text ]

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.” [ Back to text ]


Index to Paul de Ville, The Concertina and How to Play It (New York: Carl Fisher, 1905) and Bob Kail, The Best Concertina Method—Yet! (Carlstadt, NJ: Ashley Publications, 1975).


De Ville


When the Swallows Homeward Fly20
A Bicycle Built for Two83
Battle Hymn of the Republic15
Careless Love13
Cielito Lindo7
Down by the Riverside93
Frankie and Johnny96
I Love You Truly21
In the Good Old Summertime85
I’ve Been Working on the Railroad86
Little Brown Jug19
My Darling Clementine81
Wild Irish Rose18
On Top of Old Smoky84
O Sole Mio90
O Susanna10
Scarborough Fair20
She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain80
Silent Night22
Sweet Rosie O’Grady92
The Blue Tail Fly14
The Camptown Races84
The Cruel War Is Raging91
The Entertainer82
The Man on the Flying Trapeze81
The Marines’ Hymn8
There Is a Tavern in the Town89
The Wabash Cannonball12
When the Saints Go Marching In9
Adeste Fideles7979
Air from Lucia di Lammermoor6060
A Life on the Ocean Wave4141
Am I Not Fondly Thine Own3838
Annie Laurie4343
Arkansas Traveler5353
As I’d Nothing Else To Do2828
Augusta’s Favorite2016
Auld Lang Syne4545
Bachelor’s Hall3131
Beautiful Belle3939
Beautiful Nell2929
Be Gone, Dull Care3434
Be Joyful in God, All Ye Lands of the Earth7575
Belle Brandon3737
Blue Bells of Scotland3636
Bonnie Blue Flag2424
Bonnie Dundee2525
Bonny Doon3434
Boston Hop Waltz6363
Bower of Prayer7272
Brian Boru2727
Bryan O’Lynn2217
Camptown Hornpipe2525
Castles in the Air3333
Charley Over the Water2216
Charming Young Widow, or Mantle So Green2828
Chinese Dance, or Hark the Merry Bells, from Stradella5151
Chinese March5656
Chorus Jig4949
Cinderella Waltz6363
Clog Dance No. 25252
College Hornpipe, or Sailor’s Hornpipe5151
Columbian Grand March5757
Come, Come, Soldiers, Come4545
Come, Good Shepherd6868
Come Ye Disconsolate7373
Comin’ Thro’ the Rye2017
Coronation March (“Prophet”)5656
Dearest Spot on Earth To Me Is Home4646
Diamond Schottische6464
Do They Think of Me at Home?3838
Dream of the Ocean Waltz6262
Drunken Sailor, or The Monkey’s Wedding5252
Duane Street7777
Duke Street7474
Elfin Waltz6464
Ever of Thee3636
Fairy Waltz6262
Favorite Song (“Lucia di Lammermoor”)4545
Federal Street7474
Flora’s Birthday2626
Flying Cloud Schottische6565
Fred Wilson’s Clog Dance No. 15252
Gabriella Polka5959
Gallopade Quadrille5959
Garibaldi March5757
Gay and Happy5959
Glory Hallelujah3434
Golden Hill6868
Grand March in Norma5454
Hail, Columbia2424
Hail to the Chief5151
Haste to the Wedding5353
Helter Skelter, or Over Sticks and Stones Galop5858
Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still4646
Hob or Knob, or the Campbells Are Coming5454
Home, Sweet Home2116
How Beauteous Are Their Feet7575
How Can I Leave Thee?4747
Hunting the Hare, or The Calais Packet5151
I’d Offer You This Hand of Mine4343
If I Had But a Thousand a Year2828
I Heard the Wee Bird Singing2323
Il Bacio Waltz (The Kiss Waltz)6262
I’m Leaving Thee in Sorrow, Annie3535
Immortellen Waltz6060
Indian Death Song216
I Need Thee Every Hour7979
In Happy Moments (“Maritana”)3333
In the Lonely Grove (“Linda”)4444
Irish Washerwoman5050
Italian Hymn7474
It Is Better to Laugh Than Be Sighing4444
I’ve Nothing Else to Do4848
Jefferson and Liberty5353
Jerusalem the Golden3838
Jim Crow Polka5858
John Anderson, My Joe [Jo]3030
Johnny Sands2727
Jordon Am a Hard Road5050
Kate Kearney4949
Kathleen Mavourneen4848
Keemo Kimo3232
Kildoughalt Fair4040
Kitty of Coleraine3232
Lament of the Irish Emigrant3232
Lancers Quadrilles (Nos. 1-5)65-6665-66
Land of Rest7171
Land of Sweet Erin4949
Larry O’Gaff4141
Last Rose of Summer3737
Listen to the Mocking Bird3838
Listen to the Nightingale2017
Little Maggie May2929
Lord Lovell226
Louisville March5555
Lucia March (“Lucia di Lammermoor”)4646
Mabel Waltzes6060
Maiden’s Prayer3737
Maid of Judah, or Silver Moon4242
Marching Along3535
Marching Thro’ Georgia2626
Maryland, My Maryland2424
Mary of Argyle3535
Massa’s in the Cold, Cold Ground2626
Matrimonial Sweets4444
Millennium Dawn7676
Missionary Hymn7777
Moll Roon4141
Molly Bawn3131
Money Musk5454
Morella’s Lesson3434
Mountain Maid’s Invitation4444
My Bible Leads to Glory7878
My Old Kentucky Home2727
Nearer, My God to Thee7878
Nobody Going to Marry Me?2828
No, Ne’er Can Thy Home Be Mine2217
Norah, The Pride of Kildare3030
O Haste, Crimson Morn (“Lucia di Lammermoor”)4545
Oh, Hear Me, Norma3636
Oh! How Happy Are They7777
Oh! I Should Like to Marry3636
O, Lassie, Art Thou Sleeping Yet?4646
Old Folks at Home2626
Old Hundred6767
Old Rosin the Beau2323
Old Zip Coon, or Turkey in the Straw5050
O, Nanny, Wilt Thou Gang With Me5858
On the Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz6161
On the Road to Boston5353
Over the Summer Sea (“Rigoletto”)4242
Pas Styrien4242
Peace, Troubled Soul7878
Pirates Chorus, or Ever Be Happy3131
Pop Goes the Weasel4747
Prima Donna Waltz6363
Pulling Hard Against the Stream2929
Raw Recruits, or Abraham’s Daughter3535
Ricket’s [Rickett’s] Hornpipe2525
Robin Adair2525
Rochester Schottische6464
Rock of Ages7878
Rory O’More4949
Roses Waltz6161
Russian National Anthem6767
Sally, Come Up4747
Saw Ye, My Saviour7272
Scotch March5555
Shabby Genteel4848
Shining Shore3939
Shule Aroon4141
Sicilian Hymn6868
Soldier Laddie, or Independence Day4242
Spanish Dance5252
Spanish Waltz6161
Sparking Sunday Night226
Star-Spangled Banner2323
St. Louis Quickstep5757
St. Martin’s7070
St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning3939
Strike the Cymbal216
St. Thomas6868
Sweet Afton4343
Sweet Bye and Bye7878
Sweet Memories of Thee4343
Swiss Boy4444
Teddy, You Gander, or Bully for You4040
Tempest Quickstep5454
Ten Little Soldiers (De Ville)*; Ten Little Dancers (Kail)*
    * “Ten Little N-----s” [blanks inserted] in early printings
The Bell Goes A-ringing for Sai-rah2929
The Bright, Rosy Morning3333
The Coquette2117
The Flag of Our Union2525
The Girl I Left Behind Me3737
The Harp That Once Thro’ Tara’s Hall3030
The Heart That Feels No Sorrow3939
The Lord is Our Shepherd7676
The Low-Backed Car, or The Jolly Ploughman4040
The Merriest Girl That’s Out3030
The Morning Light Is Breaking7373
The Old Arm-Chair3232
The Peri Waltz6060
There Is a Fountain7979
The Stars and Stripes For Ever2323
The Tempest5050
The Witches’ Dance5151
Twilight Dews2216
Virginia Quickstep5959
Washington March5555
We Wont Go Home Till Morning2727
What’s a’ the Steer, Kimmer3333
When Johnnie Comes Marching Home3131
Widow Machree4040
Within a Mile of Edinboro’ Town4747
Yankee Doodle2323
Zouave Quickstep5656

Exercise (as numbered in De Ville)

De Ville


No. 1 Notes on the concertina (20 key)17
No. 2 Scale of C Major174
No. 3 Scale of G Major174
No. 4 Right Hand, C Major185
No. 5 Left Hand, C Major1811
No. 6 Right Hand, G Major185
No. 7 Left Hand, G Major1811
No. 8 Right Hand, C Major185
No. 9 Right Hand, C Major185
No. 10 Right Hand, C Major195
No. 11 Left and Right Hand, C Major1917
No. 12 Left and Right Hand Together, C Major1988
No. 13 Left and Right Hand Together, G Major1988
No. 14 Left and Right Hand Together, C Major1988
Left Hand Accompaniment and Multiple Notes87-88


De Ville


Scale of the German Concertina With 28 Keys (Antiquated)16
Diagram of 20-Key Concertina15Pull-


This document is unreleased;
Please do not cite or quote.
Print text double spaced
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Paul de Ville,
The Eclipse Self-Instructor
for Concertina,


© 2005 Randall C. Merris.

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