[Collection of Eighteenth-Century Secular French Sheet Music bound up and kept by Philadelphian Samuel Breck, Jr.].
Music for a noted Philadelphian merchant and musician
A young Philadelphian in Paris: a bound volume of sixty-four compositions for contra dance, guitar, etc. kept by Samuel Breck, Jr. (1771–1862), the merchant, politician, antiquarian, and diarist. An accomplished artist, Breck played the flute and other instruments.
Mr. Breck purchased this sheet music in Paris in 1787; around the time he was attending the French royal military college, the École militaire. Seventy years later, Breck, ever the antiquarian, annotated his 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 February 1857. S. Breck”.
The music is a mix of individual bifoliums (many with their own imprints) and paginated gatherings. A typical piece is a dance tune entitled La Bonaparte, likely about Napoleon Bonaparte, then a young French artillery officer on the rise. A list of all 64 titles is available; a sampling:
– 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, Jr. 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. In 1787, Breck, Jr. met Thomas Jefferson’s secretary in Paris and was introduced to society and the literati there. He 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 —much of it quite rare— and showing the influence of French popular culture on a then-young Philadelphia citizen.
Description: [Collection of Eighteenth-Century Secular French Sheet Music bound up and kept by Philadelphian Samuel Breck, Jr.].
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).