Breathnach worked as a civil servant with the Department of Education and was responsible for collecting music from around Ireland. By the time of his death he had collected over 7,000 tunes published from 1963. His efforts were responsible for saving numerous tunes and he is generally recognised as a major figure in the preservation and continuation of traditional Irish music. He is best known for his Ceol Rince na hÉireann series. Breathnach published three volumes, in 1963, 1976, and 1985. Two additional volumes based on his work were published in 1996 and 1999.
- Willie Clancy the man and his music, Ceol 2/3 (1965) 70-77
- Ceol Rince na hÉireann, vol. 1 (1963), vol. 2 (1976), vol. 3 (1985)
- Folk Music and Dances of Ireland (1971) ISBN 1-900428-65-2
- "Tribute to Seamus Ennis", Musical Traditions No. 1, 1983 
- Ó Canainn, Tomás, Traditional Music in Ireland, Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1978, ISBN 0-7100-0021-9.
- Ó Riada, Seán, Our Musical Heritage, The Dolmen Press, 1982, ISBN 0-85105-389-0.
- Vallely, Fintan (1999), The Companion to Irish Traditional Music, New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-8802-5.
- Irish Music Centre, Boston College
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