Additional Ballad Sites
Bodleian Ballad Archive: The Bodleian Library has unparalleled holdings of over 30,000 ballads in several major collections. The original printed materials range from the 16th- to the 20th-Century. The Broadside Ballads project makes the digitised copies of the sheets and ballads available to the research community.
The Word on the Street: The National Library of Scotland's online collection of nearly 1,800 broadsides lets you see for yourself what 'the word on the street' was in Scotland between 1650 and 1910. Crime, politics, romance, emigration, humour, tragedy, royalty and superstitions - all these and more are here.
Each broadside comes with a detailed commentary and most also have a full transcription of the text, plus a downloadable PDF facsimile. You can search by keyword, browse by title or browse by subject.
A Book of Old English Ballads: This collection of ballads contains some of the best known English folk lyrics. It is nowhere near as comprehensive as other books, such as the massive Child ballad collection. However, the illustrations are gorgeous, and the selection is excellent. It should be noted that 'Old English' in this case doesn't mean 'Anglo-Saxon'; strictly speaking these are written in late Middle or early Modern English. This makes them accessible, even enjoyable, for a modern audience.
Many of these are from the Scottish border, and deal with clashes between the English and Scots in historical times. Others are set in an idealized 'Old England', including three ballads of Robin Hood. The ballads surprisingly feature well-constructed female characters, who are participants in the action, not just part of the backdrop. These lyrics give some insights, often grim in nature, into the culture and mindset of the middle ages, particularly one (Hugh of Lincoln) with a regrettable anti-Semitic theme.
Early Child Ballads: A ballad is a story, distilled to its essence and set to song. The song itself tends to be unpretentious - usually a simple verse form set to a modal melody - but an unpretentious song can still be lovely, as many ballads are. It is probable that simplicity has had much to do with the ballad's continued survival and popularity: Ballads have been passed down through the centuries, changing to suit the tastes of the singers, borrowing from the music of the day, borrowing from each other. Every few decades the ballad seems to undergo a revival, with old books and manuscripts being searched for old ballads and new inspiration. The result is a living musical tradition whose roots can be traced back over half a millenium.
The Child Ballads Project: Recorded sources of English and Scottish popular ballads.
The Traditional Ballad Index: An annotated bibliography of the folk songs of the English-speaking world.
The UK and Ireland RISM Music Manuscripts Database: Music Manuscripts (1600 to 1800) in British and Irish Libraries. This database provides details of music manuscripts dating from between 1600 and 1800 preserved in national, public, and academic libraries in the U.K., and in the country's record offices and other public archives. It also includes details of music manuscripts held by some Dublin libraries. It is the result of a three-year AHRB-funded project at Royal Holloway, University of London, to document the wealth of music manuscripts from the 17th and 18th centuries held in these libraries and archives. Its eventual aim is to provide a single access point for researchers looking for sources of Western music in manuscript from that period in British and Irish libraries and archives. More collections and libraries are gradually being added, and these will eventually include the collections of the cathedral libraries of Britain, and the chapel libraries of the Oxford and Cambridge colleges.
The database can be searched using either a quick freetext search, or an advanced search which allows a variety of fields, including composer, title, keyword and holding institution, to be searched in combination. The advanced search also enables users to browse the complete list of composers, sigla, manuscript numbers and other elements using the 'list' icon.
Each individual work in a manuscript is described, and a link provided from it to a description of the volume as a whole. The first few notes of the majority of works have also been encoded (incipits for the remainder will be added shortly), and this allows the database to be queried by musical incipit as well as by text-based means. There is a link from each catalogue record to contact information for the relevant institution.
The Dutch Song Database hosted by the Meertens Institute, Amsterdam: This database contains over 150,000 song records in the Dutch language, from the earliest sources in the middle ages (13th century) up to field recordings from the second half of the 20th century. Up to 1800 it contains all kinds of songs; after 1800 it focuses on folk songs from the oral tradition, whether recorded on paper or on tape. The liederenbank is a national database in the sense that these songs are from sources all over the Netherlands and elsewhere, so it includes not only the collections in the Meertens Institute but also Flemish songs (i.e. from the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium). The database contains several thousands of full texts, and tens of thousands of full texts more are being added within the project "Dutch Songs Online" (planned to be searchable with English keywords). It also contains 7,000 original field recordings in mp3-format, and several thousands of musical transcriptions, especially of field recordings and 18th-century fiddle tunes.