The English Broadside Ballad Archive

In its heyday, broadside ballads were everywhere in England. In the seventeenth century, these sheets, which were commonly printed with a woodcut illustration and printed in heavy black-letter type (what we call Gothic today), were highly visible - posted at the alehouse or hawked on the streets - and audible - sung in the fields or at work.

The English Broadside Ballad Archive (EBBA) is a project that seeks to make all extant "broadside ballads of the seventeenth century fully accessible as texts, art, music, and cultural records." The project dates from 2003 and has been growing steadily. The EBBA estimates that there are 11,000 extant works. Currently, there are just over 7,100 ballads in the database, meaning the catalog is about 65% complete.

The Early Modern Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara is organizing the project. The content of the archive comes from major holdings at Magdalene College, Cambridge (GB-Cmc), the British Library (GB-Lbl), the National Library of Scotland (GB-En), the University of Glasgow (GB-Ge), and the Huntington Library (US-SM). Currently, resources from the Houghton Library at Harvard University (US-CAh) are being added. Future plans include holdings from the Society of Antiquaries, London (GB-Lsa), Chetham Library, Manchester (GB-Mch), the Manchester Central Library (GB-Mp), and additional collections at the British Library.

A quick search is available on the archive's homepage, and an advanced search allows an array of options, including a host of subjects such as advice, animals, catastrophe, crime, marriage, and vice. Each record includes a fully digitized version of the broadside ballad in its original form and transcribed in an easy-to-read typeface. The record for the ballad "'Tis Money makes a Man" (image, above left), which, incidentally, touches upon the themes of advice, alcohol, class, economics, family, marriage, and vice, even includes a recording:

Another benefit for researchers is that the entire database is available open access, with all materials free to use for research.

Image: "'Tis Money makes a Man," Houghton Library - Huth EBB65H 2.191 (EBBA ID: 34705). CC BY NC.



Category: Electronic resources

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