Old Measures of the Inns of Court (1570s – 1670s)
As most dance historians and scholars of early modern English theatre have noticed, there are unfortunately no dance manuals in English compiled by British choreographers or dancing masters in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, before the publication of John Playford’s The English Dancing Master in 1651. The only extant sources dealing with the practice of dance are intermittent mentions in municipal and parish registers of the time, as regards folk dances, and a corpus of eight manuscripts compiled by personalities related to the four Inns of Court of London, i.e., Lincoln’s Inn, Gray’s Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple. Until the creation of this archive the eight MSS had never been transcribed by a single scholar. Established as schools of law since the beginning of the fourteenth century, the four Inns of Court of London had a pivotal role in the development and fortune of early modern theatre. Many important playwrights of the time resided in the Inns of Court, such as Francis Beaumont, Thomas Campion, George Gascoigne, Thomas Lodge, and John Marston. Moreover, a great number of plays, interludes and masques were performed at the Inns during the seasonal revels.