[Collection of 18th Century Secular French Sheet Music bound up and kept by Philadelphian Samuel Breck].
Music for a noted Philadelphian merchant–musician
Sixty-four individual musical compositions. A bound volume of eighteenth-century French sheet music for contra dance, guitar, etc. collected by Samuel Breck (1771–1862), noted Philadelphia merchant, politician, antiquarian, and diarist. An accomplished artist, Breck is also noted for playing the flute and other instruments.
The sheet music was collected by young Breck in Paris in 1787; after his education at the French royal military college of Loreze and before returning to the United States to live in Philadelphia. Seventy years after he purchased the loose sheet music, Breck, ever the antiquarian, had it bound up. He annotated the volume for posterity:
I have had this music bound in book-form, for old acquaintance sake; having bought it in loose sheets at Paris seventy years ago—in 1787. N.B. I write this memorandum in feb[ruar]y. [sic] 1857. S. Breck
The sheet music is a mix of individual bifoliums (a good number with their own imprints) and paginated gatherings. Only one of the latter has a proper title page, a 45-page work published in Paris by Jacques-Charles Frère and entitled 2eme. Receuil Des Nouvelle Contre-danse Composé Par J. B. Hullin. The volume also contains including a dance tune entitled La Bonaparte which may refer to Napoleon Bonaparte, then a young French artillery officer on the rise. Is this the earliest “Napoleonic” sheet music?
A brief sampling of other interesting compositions within:
– Parodie Du Barbier de Seville
– Figaro Directeur de Marionettes
– La Licence au Village Vaudeville
– Du Jugement de Midas
– La Faire Saint-Germain
– Protestations Amoureuses
– Du Sorcier
– Le Maire de Luth
– De Tom Jones
– La Consolation Bachique
– La Veillee Villageoises ou le Sabot Perdu
– Le Songe de J.J. Rouseau
Samuel Breck was the son of Hannah Andrews and Samuel Breck, Sr. During the American Revolution, the elder Breck was a maritime agent to the King of France. It is possible, that through this connection, young Samuel Breck was admitted to the military college at Loreze in Languedoc, France.
In 1787, the year young Samuel Breck collected this sheet music, he met Thomas Jefferson’s secretary in Paris and was introduced to society and the literati there. The sheet music became for Breck, in his old age, a touchstone of those youthful days, bound up “...for old acquaintance sake…” Breck served in the military during the Whiskey Rebellion and was later a member of the Pennsylvania legislature and a one-term United States Congressman.
Sizable collection of eighteenth-century French engraved sheet music kept and later bound up by Samuel Breck of Philadelphia.
Description: [Collection of 18th Century Secular French Sheet Music bound up and kept by Philadelphian Samuel Breck].
Paris: Chez Frère Marchand de Musique; Chez le S[ieu]r. Lafosse M[aî]tre de Guitharre; et al. [ca. 1787]. Small 8vo.  leaves of engraved music, printed mainly on one side to a leaf, pp., total. Half black morocco with gilt title on spine; marbled boards. Provenance: ownership inscription of “S[amuel]. Breck” written in February 1857 and attributing dates of music to 1787. Title-page of first composition trimmed at bottom; one composition within defective; all else very good.
OCLC 47967882 notes one copy of 2eme. Receuil Des Nouvelle Contre-danse… (Newberry Library) and notes that Frère published in Paris from 1750 to 1828. Ref. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register…For the Year 1863, Volume XVII [April] (Albany, 1863).
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