The Roxburghe Collection


The Volumes of the Roxburghe Collection

The Roxburghe collection of c. 1,500 ballads resides at the British Library and consists of 4 volumes in 5 album books (volume 3 is divided into two separate books or “parts,” though the numbering between the two books is consecutive, and EBBA thus treats the two books as one volume). Hence the citation for a Roxburghe ballad in the second album book of volume three on pp. 542-543 would be cited 3.542-543. As with the Pepys Collection, the individual Roxburghe ballads were trimmed to fit into the album books (see Images and Ballad Sheet Sizes). Unlike the album books used by other collectors, the first three volumes of the Roxburghe album books have an ornamental border on each page within which (frequently, but not always) the trimmed ballad is pasted. Interestingly, the album paper and border ornament changes in volume 3 on p. 275, but there is a return to the first kind of ornamental album paper on p. 852 (up until p. 916). The last three pages of Volume 3 and all of Volume 4 have no album page ornament.

The Roxburghe collection has a complicated and extended collecting history; see Provenance. The Roxburghe ballads are not gathered together under categories (though one could see most of them easily fitting into the categories used by Pepys for his ballad collection). Instead, volume 1 is arranged roughly alphabetically by title. The other volumes are more haphazardly arranged, with the exception that around p. 275 in volume 3 (when different album paper with different border ornament begins, with the watermark “W. C. 1796”), we see a new arrangement of the ballads: roughly alphabetically by first lines (this arrangement is maintained until p. 805, near the end of the volume—the last ballad in the volume appears on p. 918).

For editions of the Roxburghe ballads, see Printed Editions.