In Strange Country: Modernity and Nationhood in Irish Writing Since 1790, Seamus Deane comments on the process of translating Irish oral sources into print:
The sounds that issue from the mouths of the Irish – as speech, song, or wail – pose a challenge for those who wish to represent them in print … What is taken in by and emitted from the mouth cannot easily be represented in print. The movement from an oral to a print culture is not simply a matter of translating folk tales or customs from the mouths of the people to the page. It involves an attempt to control a strange bodily economy in which food, drink, speech and song are intimately related.
For Deane, translation operates as a violent form of control, a cutting off of the organic body in an attempt to assert ideological power. In this chapter I extend and modify Deane's analysis in examining the case of Scotland in the eighteenth century and the Romantic era, as I argue that the representation of Scottish songs in printed collections served not just to promote the cultural hegemony of a London-based Britain, but in many cases to challenge the basis of its power.
Collections of notated Scottish songs – for dancing, musical instruction, and amateur playing – began circulating throughout Britain before the eighteenth century, published variously in Edinburgh, London, and even Dublin and Paris.