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The British Library Huth Collection

The Huth collection (shelfmark Huth50) consists of 82 items (although the index counts only 74), many of which are very rare sixteenth century ballads. Bound in 1954 by the British Museum, the volume was once partnered with what are now known as the Britwell ballads, now held by the Huntington Library, as well as with those owned by the Houghton Library at Harvard University. Based on an inserted note, we know that Ebsworth (the ever-present antiquarian of his time) indicated to the British Museum which of the broadside ballads to take—most of which fall into what EBBA calls the “heyday ballad tradition.” The Huntington's Britwell collection includes an insert of a hand-drawn sketch that provides a helpful history for the British Library's Huth collection. Both British Library and Huntington Huth ballads were originally owned by William Fitch (a post-master) and sold to George Daniel in 1830. Daniel gave the ballads that comprise the Britwell collection to Thomas Thorpe; they then made their way through various owners to the Huntington Library. The remainder of Daniel's ballads now comprise the British Library's Huth ballads, which were acquired by Henry Huth and bequeathed to the British Museum in 1912; these were bound into a single volume. See the section on "Provenance" of the Huntington Library ballads for a detailed drawing of the complicated provenance of both the Huth and the Britwell collections.

Of particular interest in the Huth collection held by the British Library are the "monster" ballads, which include both "monstrous" animals and "strange births." For instance, the sixteenth-century "A mervaylous straunge deformed Swyne" (Huth50.(42.), EBBA 37072) offers a fascinating account of a strange, clawed Danish pig, while two copies of "The true discripcion of a Childe with Ruffes" (Huth50.(34A and 34B), EBBA 37063 and 37064) provide a glimpse into the early modern period's obsession with so-called "monstrous" births. The Huth collection at the British Library was published in 1867 by Joseph Lilly as A Collection of Seventy-Nine Black-Letter Ballads and Broadsides, Printed in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, between the Years 1559 and 1597.