Biography:Robert Bremner

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Robert Bremner

 Given name:     Robert
 Middle name:     
 Family name:     Bremner
 Place of birth:     
 Place of death:     London
 Year of birth:     c. 1713
 Year of death:     1789
 Profile:     Collector, Composer, Editor, Engraver, Musician, Publisher
 Source of information:     

Biographical notes

ROBERT BREMNER. Robert Bremner is stated to have been born about the year 1720, although it is more likely that the event took place seven years previously. The place of his birth is unknown. He is the earliest Scottish musicseller of whom we have any knowledge, and was probably a musician or teacher of music before starting in business. The first mention of his name is in connection with a concert which he gave on 13th December, 1753, in the High School of Leith, and it would appear by the following advertisement that he began business as a musicseller on “July 11th, 1754. Robert Bremner at the sign of the Golden Harp opposite to the Head of Blackfriars Wynd Edinburgh sells all sorts of Musical Instruments viz Bass violins, violins &c. N.B. As the undertaker intends to serve Gentlemen and Ladies with everything in his way at the London price it is therefore hoped they will encourage him and whatever music is wanted that he has not shall be immediately sent for.” The same advertisement appears on the 15th of that month.

Grove’s Dictionary and other sources have given earlier dates, which have been frequently copied by booksellers in their catalogues, and by many others. These dates appear to be founded upon an assertion by W. Stenhouse, who says, “Bremner’s Thirty Scots Songs circa 1749[1]. This is genuine copy of the first impression before Bremner went to London, it is extremely rare. The title page was afterwards altered.” The date given by Stenhouse will later on be found to be incorrect. Bremner established himself in London in 1762 (which is a date earlier than that hitherto given), at the sign of the Harp and Hautboy, opposite Somerset House in the Strand, being the same sign as his Edinburgh shop, and both places of business he carried on until his death in 1789. His first sign of the Golden Harp he appears to have retained only for one year. When Bremner went to London, he appears to have left the Edinburgh business under the management of John Bryson, who was afterwards his successor. This is inferred from the tenor of an advertisement issued in 1769, quoted in the notice of John Bryson. Bremner, in 1759, removed from his shop near the head of Blackfriar’s Wynd to other premises at the Cross Well, which he occupied till his death, which occurred at Kennignton Gore, London, on 12th May 1789. His extensive London stock was purchased by Preston & Son of 97 Strand. Bremner published many works of Scottish music, besides other music much thought of in his day, among them Nicolo Pasquali’s “Thorough Bass,” “Bremner’s Rudiments of Music,” &c.

That the date assigned by Stenhouse to the issue of the Thirty Scots Songs already alluded to is incorrect, may be proved from the following excerpt, taken from an advertisement which appeared on 23rd April 1757:--“In the Press, and speedily will be published Thirty Scots Songs some of which are for two voices, with a thorough Bass for the Harpsichord or Spinnet, the music taken from the most authentic sets extant. The words from Allan Ramsay except a few never before printed. Edinburgh, Robt. Bremner at the Harp and Hautboy.” Subsequent advertisements announce the appearance of these songs by the beginning of July of that year.


An Additional Catalogue of Instrumental and Vocal Music, Printed and Sold by Preston & Son … Late the Property of that Eminent Dealer, Mr. Robert Bremner, London, 1790

H.G. Farmer, A History of Music in Scotland, London, 1947/R, p. 293-294

D. Wyn Jones, "Robert Bremner and The Periodical Overture", in Soundings, 7, 1978, p. 63-83

D. Johnson, Scottish Fiddle Music in the 18th Century, Edinburgh, 1984, p. 70-72

  1. John Glen gives the date 1757 for Bremner's volume.