King’s Blue Book: A sampling of Hawai’ian musical traditions

Kings book of Hawaiian melodies

King’s book of Hawaiian melodies. [Illustrated souvenir collection] by King, Charles E., 1874-1950. Cover page. Public domain via MIT Libraries.

This post is part of the MIT Libraries Public Domain Day celebration. Read the full text of public domain books digitized by the MIT Libraries, explore other volumes, and learn about the public domain at our website.

MIT Libraries’ collections reflect the depth, breadth, and variety of MIT community members’ interests and passions. King’s Book of Hawaiian Melodies is an example of an unexpected treasure lurking in our stacks. Amy Ku‘uleialoha Stillman, a faculty member at the University of Michigan and a respected scholar in the field, lovingly describes this volume as one of the “bibles” of Hawai’ian music, frequently found in piano benches across the islands. Her blog post chronicles its publication history, with multiple editions issued between 1916 and 1948. (MIT’s copy is the 5th edition, published in 1923.)

But you don’t have to be a scholar or a specialist to appreciate this fun collection of traditional Hawai’ian songs, with lyrics in both English and Hawai’ian and accompaniment arranged for either piano or ukulele. In his foreword, Charles Edward King described this as a compilation of “songs that breathe the atmosphere of the land.” Perfect escapist musical fare for January in Cambridge!