Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads

Project Description:

Broadside ballads were popular songs, sold for a penny or half-penny in the streets of towns and villages around Britain between the sixteenth and early twentieth centuries. These songs were performed in taverns, homes, or fairs -- wherever a group of people gathered to discuss the day's events or to tell tales of heroes and villains. As one of the cheapest forms of print available, the broadside ballads are also an important source material for the history of printing and literacy. Lavishly illustrated with woodcuts, they provide a visual treat for the reader and offer a source for the study of popular art in Britain. Tens of thousands of ballad broadsides are held in libraries in Great Britain, but the variety and quantity of these single-sheet songs has often posed problems for researchers. Many of their distinctive features, such as varying titles applied to the same text, make them difficult to find in normal library catalogues. Very few are signed by an author. Most lack even a year of publication. The Broadside Ballads Project seeks to facilitate access to the ballads held in collections at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. The Bodleian Library holds over 30,000 ballads, contained in several collections. These have been gathered into a single catalogue which is now presented, along with a scanned image of each ballad sheet, in the Broadside Ballads Project. The integrated catalogue is now online, and the Web interface allows searches for, inter alia, song sheets, ballads or illustrations. Comparisons can now be made of multiple copies of the same ballad. In addition, a few of the ballads have scores; for these sound files are provided. Each ballad in the collections is indexed by title, first line, and subject. An index of names holds entries for all authors and performers named on the ballad broadsides. The catalogue records describe each ballad broadside, noting whether it is illustrated, showing the full imprint statement (where given) and listing each separate ballad on the sheet. The names of authors, performers and publishers are also indexed, and there is an index of ballad subjects rangimg from the general ('Wedding'), through political topics of the day ('Jacobite Rebellion, 1715') to named persons ('Calvin, John').