Cotillons in print

Apart from Gallini’s New Collection, the 1760s saw the appearance of a number of small books offering instruction in the cotillon along with several choreographies for enthusiasts to dance. Giovanni Battista Gherardi ‘some Time since principal Dancer at the Opera in Paris’ led the way with ‘A Collection of the most favourite Cotillons now in vogue in Paris’, announced for imminent publication in the Public Advertiser for 9 March 1768. This was presumably the Fourteen Cotillons or French Dances published by Welcker. Gherardi followed this up with A Second Book of Cotillons or French Dances, which appeared a year later, and then A Third Book in 1770. The Second Book was advertised as costing 2 shillings (10 pence, around £20 in today’s money although an exact equivalent value is hard to calculate).

Thomas Hurst’s The Cotillons, Made Plain and Easy was published in April 1769. It, too, cost 2 shillings. A Collection of Cotillons by George Villeneuve Junior came out in May 1769, at the slightly cheaper price of one shilling and sixpence (around 8 pence, say £15 today). There was also Mr Siret’s A Set of Cotillons or French Dances, perhaps published a year later in 1770.

All these books offered advice on dancing the changes, figures and steps in cotillons. For the dances, Gherardi, Hurst and Villeneuve followed the English practice of describing country dances in words. Siret adopted the French convention of a simplified form of notation. Between them, these manuals provide a detailed introduction to the cotillon when it first became fashionable.

I will look at each cotillon manual in more detail in later posts.

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