Dance Books to 1860

The origins of much of the music seen in the hand written manuscripts are the published country dance books of the 17th and 18th centuries.

John Playford seemingly started the ball rolling in 1651 with The English Dancing Master, or Plaine and Easie rules for the dancing of Country Dances, with the tunes to each, and a plethora of publishers followed suit, the majority being based in and around St Paul’s Churchyard in London with a few scattered around in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin and some other provincial towns. These houses printed all manner of music both religious and secular and popular items were the annual dance books. A typical title would be Goulding & D’Almaine’s Twenty-Four Country Dances for the year 1826 with proper directions to each dance, (as) performed at Almack’s, Bath and all Public Assemblies. This particular book was published in both London and Dublin and there are many such books being transcribed by the project.

Major publishers issued larger collections of 200 tunes, mostly amalgamations of the previous years smaller annual books. The main collections we have processed have been those of Walsh, Johnson and Thompson alongside odd yearly volumes from smaller publishers. Contextual information for all of these publishers comes from Frank Kidson’s 1900 publication -‘ British Music Publisher, Printers, and Engravers from Queen Elizabeth’s reign to George the Fourth’s’. Many of the books he refers to are still in existence and more than 500 are contained in the British Library. Others are spread around the libraries of the world. The work of tracing copies will be long and subject to many problems, and any assistance from members of the public in finding and copying these volumes will be gratefully received.

Alphabetical list of publishers where we’ve transcribed at least one of their publications, with approximate years for the material we have.
ALEXANDER (circa.1820)
CAHUSAC (1758, 1809)
GOULDING (& D’ALMAINE) (1808, 1826)
JOHNSON (1750 to 1758)
PLAYFORD (1651 to 1726)
PRESTON (1801, 1803-5)
RANDALL (1776)
RUTHERFORD (1756 to 1759)
THOMPSON (1758 – 1780)
WALSH (1754 to 1756)
WESTROP (circa. 1870
WILSON (1816)