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The PRETTY MAID buying a LOVE SONG

EBBA began in 2003 with the archiving of the single largest collection of black-letter broadside ballads of the seventeenth century: over 1,800 ballads in the five volume Pepys Collection at Magdalene College, Cambridge (for more on the evolution and makeup of EBBA see About Us). Our next project was to archive an only slightly smaller collection of some 1,500 ballads: the Roxburghe Collection at the British Library. We have also archived four collections from the National Library of Scotland, including the important Crawford Collection; as well as the Euing Collection of 420 black-letter broadside ballads at the University of Glasgow, Scotland; and some 600 ballads that are loose or from various collections, including the Britwell, Bindley, and Bridgewater, at the Huntington Library, San Marino. We then turned our attention to the early modern broadside ballads held at the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

During our sixth grant cycle (generously funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities; see "Funding"), we archived the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century broadside ballads in the library of the Society of Antiquaries, London; the Halliwell-Phillipps ballads held at Chetham's Library, Manchester; the Manchester Central Library; and several ballad collections from the Beinecke Library at Yale University. These collections ultimately amount to the addition of 900 ballads to our archive. Subsequently, during our seventh round of funding, we returned to the British Library to capture all extant sixteenth- and seventeenth-century broadside ballads outside of the Roxburghe collection. We added over 1300 ballads from 25 separate shelfmarks, including ballads from important named collections such as John Bagford’s three volume collection, Narcissus Luttrell's three volume collection, the Huth ballads (which, with the Huntington's Britwell collection, belonged to William Fitch), and ballads from the Thomason Tracts. We also rediscovered an often-overlooked collection of Civil Wars and Interregnum ballads which, while taking up traditional ballad themes such as the pastoral, are ultimately coded Royalist; this collection was called "The Book of Fortune" by its compiler, and we followed suit.

With an eighth round of funding from the NEH, EBBA is currently making a wide sweep of the globe to capture as many extant early modern broadside ballads that remain in libraries across the world. With nearly 100 holding institutions and 1000 individual ballad sheets in our sights, we are hoping to near completion of EBBA by 2022. Some of the holding institutions with whom we are working for this grant include: Cambridge University Library (for collections other than the Pepys); Duke University's Rubenstein Rare Books Library in Durham, NC; the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC; the Guildhall of London; Lambeth Palace Library, London; the National Archives of London; the Newberry Library in Chicago; the New York Public Library; the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City; UCLA's Clark Library; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Texas at Austin's Harry Ransom Center; and Williams College's Chapin Library. Nearly 85 other institutions hold at least one ballad fitting our criteria, and will hopefully be included in this grant cycle.

Our ultimate goal is to archive all surviving black-letter broadside ballads from England’s heyday of the printed ballad in the seventeenth century (when woodcut ornaments, printed tune titles, and black letter ruled). We estimate the number of such broadside ballads to be between 11,000 and 12,000. EBBA, however, will necessarily include earlier and later ballads as many collections are expansive in historical range, and extant sixteenth-century ballads, such as the Huntington's Britwell collection, are very rare. Still, as a matter of funding and time constraints, we will likely also have to restrict our purview to only portions of those larger collections that cross later centuries; otherwise, EBBA will become impossibly gargantuan. At all times, then, we prioritize the archiving of those collections and those parts of collections that privilege seventeenth-century ornamental black-letter broadside ballads.