The Roxburghe Ballads

There is a  collection of Ancient Songs and Ballads written on various subjects and printed between 1550 and 1700 known as the Roxburghe Ballads.

They comprise three large volumes in folio and embrace over 1300 broadsides mostly in ‘Black Letter’.  With only a few exceptions they are in a very good state of preservation.  A broadside (also known as a broadsheet) is a single sheet of inexpensive paper printed on one side, often with a ballad, rhyme, news and sometimes with woodcut illustrations. They were one of the most common forms of printed material between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly in Britain, Ireland and North America and are often associated with one of the most important forms of traditional music from these countries, the ballad.

Some of the ballads are duplicated or even triplicated in subsequent reprints when lines or even new stanzas were inserted for ‘noticing or satirising’, a custom of the day when reprints were published.

The collection was originally commenced by Robert Harley, eldest son of Sir Edward Harley and 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer (1661 – 1724).  It was later collected by John Ker, 3rd Duke of Roxburghe.

The above is an extracted summary from the introduction to the Roxburghe Ballads edited by Charles Hindley 1873.

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