The Pepys Collection


The Pepys collection of over 1,800 ballads resides in The Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Samuel Pepys collected most of his ballads into five album books with approximate dimensions of 340 x 358 mm. The volumes are roughly 70 mm. thick, with Volume 1 closer to 100 mm. since it contains earlier ballads which are on heavier paper. The individual ballads were trimmed and sometimes cut in half to fit into these volumes (see Images and Ballad Sheet Sizes), and EBBA provides the dimensions of the trimmed and cut ballads in the cataloguing for each ballad. Each ballad in the collection is catalogued extensively and includes volume and page number(s): for example, a two-part ballad on pp. 224-225 of volume 1 would be catalogued as 1.224-225. There are ten ballads in the Pepys library that are not in the ballad collection proper, however; these were pasted into various other books owned by Pepys and are indicated by their Pepys library number and the page number onto which they were pasted.

Pepys’s album collection was begun with the acquisition of John Selden’s ballad collection (probably in the 1680s), which forms most of volume 1. The entire collection of five albums is a significant but small part of a larger collecting initiative on the part of Pepys that resulted in an extensive library by the time of his death in 1703 of some 3,000 works (on Pepys the man and his ballad collecting in the light of his collecting practices as a whole, see Pepys and his Collecting). Pepys gathered the ballads in his collection roughly chronologically and also by category. For an overview of Pepys’s organizing principles for his ballad collection as well as individual essays on each of the categories by which Pepys gathered his ballads from volume to volume, see Pepys’s Categories. For editions of the Pepys ballads, see Printed Editions.