Printed Editions of the Pepys Ballads

There are three printed editions of the Pepys ballads: a facsimile edition, The Pepys Ballads, edited by W. G. Day, in 5 volumes, from the Catalogue of the Pepys Library at Magdalene College Cambridge (Wolfboro, N.H.: D. S. Brewer, 1991), which is accompanied by a 2 volume catalogue of the ballads made by Helen Weinstein (1992); a modern edition of 505 selected ballads edited by Hyder E. Rollins, The Pepys Ballads, 8 vols. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1929); and Rollins’s slimmer selection of seventy-nine Pepys ballads in his A Pepysian Garland (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971).

The facsimile edition issued by The Pepys Library has the advantage over Rollins’s modern editions of providing not only the complete set of ballads but also of giving the reader a good sense of what the original album books and ballads pasted into the albums look like. But the facsimile edition is at the same time extremely difficult to read. Because it is also oversized, the pages are nearly impossible to read when reduced and printed on 8.5 x 11 paper for purposes of teaching. The Rollins editions offer the advantage of transcriptions of some of the ballads as well as some shrewd if minimal commentary, but Rollins never spells out his rules of transcription and his editions lose the formatting and ornament of the originals (though the odd woodcut illustration is interspersed throughout). Finally, none of the above editions makes accessible the oral features of the ballads, that is, recordings of their tunes. And, of course, the advantages of sophisticated search functions, such as are made available in EBBA, are also absent.