When I originally conceived of this project, its scope was far less comprehensive. I had at first intended for it to be a part of a larger Windows Help file, and it was to contain only the text of the dances, based on the (now out of print) 1984 reprinting of Playford's first edition.
However, I succumbed to "creeping featurism", and it wasn't long before I had printed (from microfilm) the second edition in its entirety, created TrueType fonts to include the music notation and simulate the original typefaces, and composed harmonies to some of the tunes. Eventually, I abandoned the Helpfile approach in favour of the Web.
In the reprint of the first edition, the editors chose to modernise the notation, in order to avoid "bewildering" the ordinary dancer or reader. With the benefit of multimedia available on the Web, I have chosen to include a scanned version of the original notation, and provide a MIDI file of the tune itself, and thereby (hopefully) minimize said bewilderment while remaining truer to the original.
Playford's first edition was printed in 1651, and the second in 1653; the difference between the two editions is quite marked. Not only did Playford add ten dances, but he added accidentals to a number of the melodies (some of which sound quite odd to the ear familiar with arrangements from the first edition) and placed the dances in more-or-less alphabetical order, rather than in the haphazard arrangement of the first edition. Two dances were removed: Prince Rupert's march, which was undoubtedly excised for political reasons, and Rufty tufty, the absence of which is somewhat more difficult to explain.
Although the earlier work identifies Thomas Harper as the printer, no printer is listed in the colophon of the second edition (which does state that it was printed at Playford's shop; however, it says it was printed for Playford, and not by him). A comparison of the two editions shows a very distinct difference in typographic style and orthography; for example, the silent final e was dropped from most words.
Quite a number of the tunes in Playford's collection were also popular songs; where possible, I have provided the lyrics, and their source. Because it was common for broadside ballads to use pre-existing tunes, there are several choices for some of the tunes. In selecting lyrics, I attempted to select them based on the following criteria:
Most of the lyrics included on this site were found in The Roxburghe Ballads, an eight-volume collection of English broadside ballads. See the bibliography for a more extensive list of source materials used in preparing this site.
After much deliberation, I have decided to retain the errors from the original document (while hopefully not introducing any of my own). A number of the strain markers in the text, and set diagrammes (such as in Cuckolds all a row) are obviously incorrect, and I have indicated the errors in the notes for each dance.
I regret that I was unable to include a facsimile of the original typeface, long s and all, but unfortunately the current HTML specifications do not allow for easy transmission and use of non-standard fonts. Here, though, is a scan of the original page for Hearts Ease, for the purposes of comparison.
The Web pages containing the dances themselves were created in an intermediate markup language and converted into HTML with a custom utility. All other HTML files were written with either the OS/2 text editor or the Windows Notepad. Final results were checked with both OS/2 WebExplorer 1.2 and Netscape 1.1 for Windows (both browsers were used with an 800x600 screen, in both 8-bit and 16-bit video modes).
I would like to thank the Society for Creative Anachronism, in which I discovered the joys of Renaissance dancing, as well as Master Guillermo da Firenzé, Mistress Orianna Goldenhair, and Messer Giuseppe Francesco da Borgia, who taught me many of the dances which I know and enjoy; and especially Lady Eibhlin MacAedh and Lady Elysia Bondesdottir, two of the most beautiful and talented dancing partners a man could ask for.
Information on downloading a zipped archive of these Web pages and their accompanying graphics may be found here.