Because ballads were frequently reprinted and their content often leaves few, if any, clues to the date of composition and printing, our primary method of dating our ballads is by the working dates of the booksellers and/or printers listed in the imprint. This means that the dates provided reflect the date of printing, not necessarily the date of composition or original printing, and that the date is more often than not a date range rather than a single year. Thus, when our archive has multiple copies of the same ballad, the dates may vary. For example, our archive contains three copies of “A Strange Banquet; Or, The Devils Entertainment by Cook Laurel, at the Peak in Devonshire; with a true Relation of the several Dishes” (EBBA 21945, 30909, 32031). The date for the first, 21945, has the date range “1681-1684” based on the working dates for the partnership of John Wright, John Clarke, William Thackeray, and Thomas Passinger named in the imprint. The second and third copies, 30909 and 32031, have the date range “1693-1695?” based on the working dates for the partnership between William Onley, Alexander Milbourn, and Jonah Deacon, also named in the imprint.

If we can clearly date the content (usually for historical events) and that date fits within the working dates of the booksellers and/or printers, we simply give the year appropriate to the content for the date. Furthermore, when possible, we adjust dates according to additional information the ballad might provide, such as the name of the licenser. Before assigning dates, we also cross check our data with the ESTC’s.

Dates in which we have a lower level of confidence are indicated by “?”. We only assign high levels of confidence to dates that have received high levels of scrutiny (such as the work done by Cyprian Bladgen on the ballad partners), works in which the content of the ballad makes dating clear (such as ballads on the coronation of William of Orange), or ballads which print the date on the sheet (for example, EBBA 32553).

A note on the dates for the Pepys ballads

The primary source for the Pepys ballad dates is Helen Weinstein (cataloguer of the 5 volume Pepys Ballads facsimiles). Weinstein derives her dates from several sources: Imprints on the ballads, content in the ballads, the STC, licensing information, Hyder Rollins, and Claude Simpson. In the date citation, we record both that the date comes from Weinstein and her source. For example, if Weinstein dates a ballad by its STC record, our record will show: “Weinstein: STC.” If Weinstein’s source is the imprint of the ballad, the record will show: “Weinstein: Imprint.” We have supplemented Weinstein’s dating with other sources, which are also recorded in the citation (see the list of abbreviations below for the works consulted).

Sources for the dates of the ballad are currently only visible on the Raw XML of the ballad as note type="ImprintSource."


  • STC: Short Title Catalogue
  • ESTC: English Short Title Catalogue
  • Rollins (1): Hyder Rollins, ed., The Pepys Ballads, 8 vols.
  • Rollins (2): Hyder Rollins, An Analytical Index to the Ballad-entries in the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London.
  • BBTI: British Book Trade Index
  • Blagden: Cyprian Blagden, “Notes on the Ballad Market in the Second Half of the Seventeenth Century.” Studies in Bibliography 6 (1953-4): 161-80.
  • Weinstein: Helen Weinstein, Ballads Catalogue, in Catalogue of the Pepys Library at Magdalene College Cambridge, II:i.
  • Watt: Tessa Watt, Cheap Print and Popular Piety, 1550-1640.
  • Spufford: Margaret Spufford, Small Books and Pleasant Histories.
  • Simpson: Claude Simpson, The British Broadside Ballad and Its Music.
  • PBA or EBBA: Date determined by Pepys Ballad team (later renamed EBBA) or EBBA team generally.