Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Andrew Law Papers, 1775-1840

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, May 1998; re-cataloged by Cheney J. Schopieray, 2008

Summary Information
Title: Andrew Law papers
Creator: Law, Andrew, 1749-1821
Inclusive dates: 1775-1840
Bulk dates: 1775-1821
Extent: 4 linear feet
This collection is made up of the correspondence and business papers of Andrew Law, composer and compiler of tune books. Dating primarily during his most productive professional years, these papers also contain manuscript sheet music and printed proof sheets.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1960, 1971. M-1131; M-1569.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Andrew Law Papers William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan.


The grandson of a colonial governor of Connecticut, Andrew Law was born in Milford, Connecticut, and studied divinity at Rhode Island College (Brown University) and Yale before obtaining a license to preach in 1776. Although ordained in 1787 for both Congregational and Presbyterian congregations, he had already embarked on a musical career that would make him one of America's most prolific, most widely traveled composers of the day.

As early as 1770, Law offered instruction in violin and flute, and while still an undergraduate, he began directing a singing school, compiling his first tune book in 1777. His Select Harmony (Cheshire, Conn., 1779) became one of the most popular American tune books of its day, and was the first to combine English and American psalmodists in roughly equal proportions. His brother William, a printer in Cheshire, became Andrew's publisher, and issued a second edition of Select Harmony in 1782, followed in the next year by two works, A Collection of Hymns for Social Worship and The Rudiments of Music. With their appearance, Andrew Law began to travel widely across the country, teaching from his works, establishing singing schools in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. Between 1789 and 1792, he conducted schools in Alexandria, Virginia and Baltimore, while overseeing a staff of younger singing masters who covered the rural reaches of the middle south. Almost single-handedly through Law's influence, the musical traditions of New England began effectively to penetrate southward.

Law's grandiose plans for the south never materialized into the success that provided a livelihood, and after the collapse of his efforts in 1793, he returned to Connecticut. Ambitious and litigious by nature, he engaged in a series of lawsuits accusing other composers of piracy, and after announcing a preference for European music, spent several years promulgating his ideas in New England and the Mid-Atlantic States. He also fearlessly, but unsuccessfully, championed a staffless shape-notation for his tune books that, because he refused to have his works published in other formats, ultimately limited his sales and income. He continued to write and publish until his death in 1821.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Law papers contain over 500 letters written during the most productive years of Andrew Law's professional career as a singing master, composer, and compiler of tune books, 1780-1821. Most of the correspondence relates to Law's musical publications, his ideas on music, and family matters, and together, they form an invaluable archive of the mind and work of one of the most prolific tunesmiths of the Early Republic.

In addition, the collection includes approximately 700 accounts, receipts, and other business papers; personal memoranda relating to Law's travels and financial affairs (350 pp.); 35 lists of students; and miscellaneous sheet music (368 pp.).

Subject Terms

    • Family--Connecticut.
    • Music--18th century.
    • Music--Instruction and study.
    • Musicians--Connecticut.
    • Psalmody.
    Genre Terms:
    • Business records.
    • Sheet music.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1  
    Box   2  
    Box   3  
    Box   4  
    Box   5  
    Box   6  
    Box   7  
    Business papers, etc. [series]
    Box   8  
    Box   9  
    Box   10  
    Memoranda [series]
    Box   10  
    Student lists [series]
    Box   10  
    Sheet music [series]
    Box   11  
    Manuscript music [subseries]
    Box   12  
    Music proof sheets [subseries]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    Law, Andrew. The musical magazine ... (Cheshire, Conn., 1792) see also part III of The art of singing and other editions. Transferred to Book Division.

    Law, Andrew. Harmonic companion. (Philadelphia, 1807) see also The art of singing also editions of 1813, 1819. Transferred to Book Division.

    Related Materials

    Crawford, Richard. The papers of Andrew Law in the William L. Clements Library.

    Law, Andrew. Select harmony. (Cheshire, Conn., 1778), see also other editions and numerous variants, 1779, 1782, 1812

    Law, Andrew. A select number of plain tunes adapted to Congregational worship ... (S.l., 1781)

    Law, Andrew. A collection of hymn tunes from the most modern and approved authors. (Cheshire, Conn., 1783)

    Law, Andrew. A collection of hymns for social worship. (Cheshire, Conn., 1783)

    Law, Andrew. The rudiments of music ... (Cheshire, Conn., 3rd ed., 1791), also editions of 1792, 1793

    Law, Andrew. The art of singing ... (Cheshire, Conn., 1794), also editions of 1800, 1803, 1803-05, 1811, 1820

    Law, Andrew. Musical primer ... (Philadelphia, 1810), also edition of 1817, see also part I of The art of singing

    Law, Andrew. Supplement to the Musical Primer ... (Philadelphia, 1811), also edition of 1820

    Law, Andrew. [Sixteen tune settings] (S.l., ca.1812)

    Law, Andrew. Essays on music. (Hartford, 1821)

    Law, Samuel Andrew. Mr. Adgate's new plan of solfaing, examined. (S.l., 1792?) anonymous work, probably written by Samuel Andrew Law, Andrew Law's nephew

    Rogers, William. The prayer ... (Philadelphia, 1800), also includes some of Law's music.

    William Law papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan

    The Bentley Historical Library holds the papers of Andrew Law historian Richard Crawford: Richard Crawford papers, 1893-1915 and 1949-2001. Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.


    Crawford, Richard. Andrew Law (1749-1821): the career of an American musician. (PhD Diss., Univ. of Michigan, 1965).

    Crawford, Richard. Andrew Law, American psalmodist. (Evanston, Ill., 1968)

    Hitchcock, W. Wiley and Stanley Sadie. The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, vol. 3 (London, 1986), p. 18.