Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Broadsides are single sheets of paper printed on one side. They were one of the most common forms of printed material between the 16th and 19th centuries and were therefore used not only for ballads, but for handbills, proclamations, newsletters, advertisements, etc. as well. A ballad is technically any song that tells a story, but the term "broadside ballad" refers specifically to ballads that were printed on broadsides both for ease of dispersal (they could be pasted up on tavern walls, doled out for a penny a piece, and folded into chapbooks) and because it was faster, easier, and less expensive to print them that way. Broadside ballads were frequently illustrated with woodcuts, but the illustrations rarely related to the contents of the ballad and were reused and shared amongst printers often enough that they effectively became stock images. Subject matter ranged from love, religion, and legends to journalistic accounts of current events and drinking songs. They were typically new compositions, though sometimes on old themes or retelling old stories. Printers would occasionally reprint ballads, but it seems that ballads were more likely to live on in their tunes. The broadsides very rarely included printed music; it was far more common for the ballads to be printed with lyrics and the suggestion of a well-known tune. Thus, ballad tunes were used and reused repeatedly with new titles replacing the old as they gained more popularity. With the ease of producing them and the wide subject range, broadside ballads were incredibly popular in England, Ireland, and later in North America. Researchers interested in 18th and 19th century popular song and broadside publishing in England and the United States may find this collection to be of interest.
This collection contains 1.1 linear feet (3 boxes) of broadside ballads published in the United States and in England. Some are dated from the late 18th and the mid-to-late 19th centuries, but the bulk of the items are undated. The subject matter of the ballads in this collection ranges from love songs and legends to religious and journalistic ballads. While broadside ballads are traditionally printed on a single side of one sheet, this collection includes two handwritten ballads (The Flitch of Bacon, BB F6490 and Dumnow Flitch of Bacon, BB F6492) and a few printed chapbooks as well. Many of the items in this collection have decorative borders or woodcut illustrations. The broadsides in this collection were originally arranged by call number. The physical arrangement remains the same, but they are now listed alphabetically by main words with the call number serving as the folder number. Box 2, items 1-26 are held in a single folder. Researchers should also note that titles have been entered as they appear on the page and thus spelling differences and misprints persist (i.e. "luckey" for "lucky," "wanderrer" for "wanderer," "forexer" for "forever," etc.).
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Rayna Andrews
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research use.