The Houghton Collections

The Houghton ballads, numbering almost 1,150, are housed at the Houghton Rare Book Library at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Among others, this collection is the work of collectors A.H. Huth, George Daniel, and William Hazlitt, although most of its assembly was performed by now-anonymous 19th-century antiquarians. The collection is divided into eight separate smaller collections, each containing anywhere from 15 to 337 ballads, including the Hazlitt collection, an album in which around 80 ballads have been carefully cut and pasted, often onto two separate pages. The Huth collection has also been pasted into an album, while the other collections are loose-leaf. The collections are referred to within EBBA in various ways: for example, both the Bute and Huth collections are known by the names of their collectors, as those are names known to scholars. The Hazlitt ballad volume is marked as having been collected by William Hazlitt, but as the collection is not well-known to scholars, it is referred to as Hazlitt EC65, using both the collector’s name and the Houghton Library shelfmark. The other collections are referred to using their shelfmarks, which use the letters EB—meaning English Ballad—and EBB—meaning English Broadside Ballad—and the number 65, denoting that the ballads date post-1650.

Most of the Houghton ballads are from the seventeenth-century heyday, although there are a few sixteenth-century ballads, as well as some early eighteenth-century ballads. Many of the collection labelled EB65 are later white-letter political ballads, while the Huth collection and EBB65 contain primarily Restoration-era black-letter ballads, filled with bawdy humor and woodcut illustrations. EBBA’s cataloging of the Houghton ballads includes the shelfmark and, where appropriate, volume and page number.