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John Playford

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Norwich, United Kingdom (1623 – 1686)

John Playford (1623-1686) was an English bookseller and publisher, and is now best-known for his publication of The English Dancing Master, which is often referred to simply as “Playford”.

Playford was born in Norwich. He served an apprenticeship with th publisher John Benson from 1639/40 to 1647, after which he opened a shop in the porch of Temple Church. He published The English Dancing Master in 1651. The work contains both the music and instructions for English country dances. This came about after Playford, working as a war correspondent in the Civil War, was captured by Cromwell’s men and told that, if he valued his freedom (as a sympathiser with the King) he might consider a change of career. Although many of the tunes in the book are attributed to him today, he probably did not write any of them. Most were popular melodies that had existed for years.

Playford died in London.

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