The Country Dance Book

Cecil Sharp published The Country Dance Book in 1909. This described 18 dances he had collected during his travels in search of folk-songs and Morris and Sword dances. In 1911 he published The Country Dance Book, Part II. This was his interpretation of dances published by John Playford in the seventeenth century. With George Butterworth, he produced parts III and IV in 1912 and 1916 (with a second edition of part IV in 1918); these contained further dances from Playford’s collection. In 1918 he and Maud Karpeles wrote part V, describing the Running Set, and finally in 1922 he wrote part VI with further Playford dances. Cecil Sharp died in 1924 and Maud Karpeles supervised publishing revised editions of The Country Dance Book, parts I-IV, making substantial changes to Part I (and adding two dances). In 1975 EP Publishing produced a reprint from the revised editions of parts I and II, the earlier ones of parts III and IV, plus parts V and VI; they also included an undated set of corrections Novello & Co had issued at some stage. In 1985 Harry Styles reissued the EP editions, with those corrections applied.

Just to complicate the issue, the EFDS produced a “Graded Series” of dances, initially authored by Cecil Sharp, and later Maud Karpeles. Basically these were self-plagiarised from the Country Dance Books, but in some cases give a later and clearer explanation.

George Butterworth died in 1916, and Maud Karpeles in 1976. This all makes the copyright situation rather complicated. Basically Maud Karpeles’ work is still in copyright, but the rest is out of copyright. Hence this site includes the text from the first edition of part I, the first editions of parts II, III, IV and VI with some corrections. It does not include part V, which means we lose the Running set figures, but not any set dances. Each part (except for parts I and V) has an introductory section “The Dance” describing steps, figures and style. In general this was carried forward from one part to another, and later editions seem to have adopted the latest version of this text. Accordingly we only give one version (from part VI) of each section.

Warning to callers looking for dance instructions. This is intended to be a copy of Cecil Sharp’s words for historical interest. Nowadays most people dance variant versions of a few of these dances; generally I document the current version of the dance in a footnote, but “current version” is somewhat ill-defined, and your dancers may disagree with me.

The Country Dance BookTunes
Part IIntroductionSet I, Set II
Part IIIntroductionSet III, Set IV
Part IIISet V, Set VI
Part IVSet VII, Set VII
Part V
Part VIIntroductionSet X, Set XI

Cumulative index to dances in the Country Dance Books.

Note that this has been transcribed by hand, so is probably full of typos and bad links. If you find any please report them. Some of Cecil Sharp’s typos have been left in intentionally.

Page transcribed by Hugh Stewart