Ballads & Broadsides

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The English and Scottish Popular Ballads edited by Francis James Child is the premier collection of ballads and ballad commentary in the English language. The texts of 305 ballads (plus variants) from the out-of-print five-volume Dover Press facsimile edition of the Ballads based on files of Cathy Lynn Preston are available on line in three formats:

Loomis House Press has now issued the fourth volume of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads in a "corrected edition" prepared by Mark Heiman and Laura Saxton Heiman. The "corrections" incorporate all of Professor Child's post-publication corrections and additions into their proper places in the text (rather than in an Appendix); ballad tunes drawn from Child's original sources and his 1877 essay "Ballad Poetry" have also been included.

Loomis House Press also has new edition of the one-volume abridgement, the English and Scottish Popular Ballads edited from the Collection of Francis James Child: Students' Cambridge Edition by Helen Child Sargent and George Lyman Kittredge, in preparation.

Francis J. Child Ballads: Biography, Lyrics, Tunes and Historical Information is another large online collection, with 105 texts organized by volume and number. It's part of Lesley Nelson's Folk Music of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and America.

The English and Scottish Popular Ballads offers an introduction to the collection, a biographical sketch of Child, and commentary on the influence of Child Ballads by Jack B. Nimble, fiddler, web designer, and senior writer for The Green Man Review: Roots & Branches of Music & Literature; the page also features Chuck Lipsig's commentary on The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballad by Bertrand Harris Bronson.

Many versions of individual Child ballads are available online at divers sites, in various degrees of modernization. Among these are:

Child's Legacy Enlarged: Oral Literary Studies at Harvard Since 1856 by David E. Bynum. "For 116 years, Harvard College has been collecting oral traditions and disseminating knowledge about them to anyone who could use that knowledge to good purpose. Three men of the Harvard faculty launched this brilliant movement in American intellectual life. They were Francis James Child, George Lyman Kittredge, and Milman Parry. The following pages are about those three men, their ideas, and their continuing impact on the life of our own time." [Thanks to Ian Myles Slater for this link.]
A Concordance to Francis James Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, in downloadable format, by Cathy Lynn Preston, University of Colorado.
Early Child Ballads, an introduction by Dani Zweig.

Other Ballad Collections

Reliques of Ancient English Poetry by the Reverend Thomas Percy (1729-1811), Bishop of Dromore from 1782, is the wellspring of ballad collecting and ballad scholarship in England. The source for the Reliques is a seventeenth-century manuscript dubbed the Percy Folio, which is now in the British Museum.

The three-volume Dover Press issue of the 1886 critical edition is out-of-print, but a facsimile edition is available from Elibron. Selections are available at Representative Poetry On-Line at the University of Toronto (under author "Thomas Percy").

The Englisah Broadside Ballad Archive features facsimile images of 1,857 ballads in the Samuel Pepys collection at the Pepys Library, Magdalene College, Cambridge, with transcriptions, backgropund essays, and notes. At the University of Santa Barbara. Updated.
Ancient Poems, Ballads, and Songs of the Peasantry of England edited by Robert Bell, the 1846 Percy Society edition, from Project Gutenberg. 108 traditional works, some of them ballads, with short notes.
A Book of Old English Ballads with an Accompaniment of Decorative Drawings by George Wharton Edwards and an Introduction by Hamilton W. Mabie (1896), part of the Internet Sacred Text Archive's English folklore collection.
A Collection of Ballads by Andrew Lang, the 1910 Chapman and Hall edition. 53 historical and supernatural ballads, with commentary. Downloadable text from Project Gutenberg.
The Oxford Book of Ballads, edited by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, 1910, at Bartleby.

General Ballad Resources on the Net

The Traditional Ballad Index: An annotated source to folk song from the English-speaking world. "The Traditional Ballad Index is a collaborative effort designed to help people find reference information on ballads. It is not itself a source of song texts or of discussion of ballads, although it contains some summary information." This site provides a keyword-search index and a complete file for download or online viewing.
Sixteenth Century Ballads: A Work in Progress. "Much attention is paid to post-1600 ballads, both traditional and broadsides, but only a few sixteenth century ballads are known. Of the ones which are known, most are not printed with the lyrics and tunes together, so are not very accessible to the casual reader." The goal of Greg Lindahl's project is to produce a collection of "interesting" ballads from before 1600, containing sheet music and lyrics, both in their original form, and in a form intelligible to a modern listener. Includes his list of documentation for pre-1600 Child Ballads.
Seventeenth Century Broadside Ballad Collections: Incomplete Contents Listing of 17th Century Broadside Ballad Collections, With a Few Ballads and Garlands of the 18th Century. Wm. Bruce Olson writes: "In 1987 The Pepys Ballads was published in facsimile in five volumes, but without an Index. I got very tired of thumbing through the volumes to relocate a text in which I had some interest, so decided to make a rudimentary Index. After I had it, I thought I might as well throw in the Wood and Manchester collections for which I had made a contents list, and also the BL 'Book of Fortune' collection which I had seen many years earlier...." The result is one humungous text file, situable for searching.
The Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads Project at Oxford University makes digitized copies of the library's unparalleled collection of broadside sheets and ballads available over the internet.

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7 August 2005 (updated 29 May 2010)