Conventions of presentation


Abbreviations used on the website:

Broadside Ballads Online from the Bodleian Library = Ballads Online (free online:

EBBA = English Broadside Ballad Archive (free online:

ESTC = English Short Title Catalogue

PBB = Angela McShane, Political Broadside Ballads in Seventeenth-Century England: A Critical Bibliography (London, 2011)

Presentation of ballad images:

Most surviving ballads of the early modern period were pasted into volumes by the original or subsequent collectors (see Collectors and collections). This often involved cutting ballads in half and pasting the two parts into the volume on facing pages. In preparing the 120 facsimile images on this website, we have removed the additional space that often surrounds the ballads in the collectors’ volumes and, where the original sheet was cut in two, we have positioned the two parts next to one another.

Beyond this, we have made no attempt to manipulate or artificially enhance the images, believing that it is useful for viewers to see the surviving sources in the form in which they have survived. This means that we have not tried to disguise particularly unfortunate interventions by collectors. Nor have we attempted to improve the legibility of portions of text that are difficult to photograph because they appear close to the central binding of volumes that, for their own protection, cannot be pressed flat (in all cases, a full transcript of the ballad is provided).


Original spellings, complete with misprints, have been preserved.

Black-letter text is represented in bold font.

Italic text is represented in italic font.

Standard tune names

Many ballad tunes were known by more than one title (these are listed in the ‘featured tune histories’). To facilitate cross-referencing and comparison, each tune has been given a standard name. In most cases, these are the titles under which the tunes were listed in Claude Simpson, The British broadside ballad and its music (1966).

Standard woodcut name

The woodcut pictures that appear on most ballads had no contemporary titles so we have invented these ourselves in order to facilitate discussion of the ways in which images were re-used on more than one ballad.

Featured tune histories

In the lists of ballads that appear in these sections, the title of each song is presented along with its publishers, the date, a reference number identifying the relevant ballad collection, and the EBBA number (this number can be used to find the ballad under discussion on the online English Broadside Ballad Archive:

On each ballad page, the featured tune history can be accessed either by clicking the name of the tune on the facsimile image or by scrolling down to the relevant section.

Featured woodcut histories

As above, we include for each listed ballad the title, publishers, date, a reference number identifying the relevant ballad collection, and the EBBA number.

The featured woodcut histories can be accessed either by clicking the picture itself or by scrolling down to the relevant section.

For some ballads, more than one of the woodcut pictures has a history. ‘Bonus’ woodcut histories can be accessed by clicking on the pictures in the facsimile ballad image (hovering over the image will show whether it has a history and whether it is the ‘featured’ woodcut or a ‘bonus’).

Song histories and Related texts:

References to the sources that have informed our research are listed in alphabetical order at the end of the section.

Cross-referencing within the website

In all sections, we have used bold font to identify items (ballads, woodcuts, essays, histories and so on) that also appear elsewhere in the website. These also appear in colour if they can be clicked to take the user straight to the relevant section.


Bibliographical data for each of our featured ballads can be found in the Publication history section on the relevant page. Here, you will find a tab for each of the known editions, arranged in chronological order. (For what the 100 Ballads project defines as an edition and how they have been dated, see the essays on Methodology and the Ballad Business). Information about each edition, including a list locating all the surviving copies (if any), can be found by clicking into each one of the editions in the list.

The standardised conventions used to record bibliographical data for the hundreds of ballad editions included in the 100 Ballads database are as follows:

  1. ‘Title’ and ‘Tune title’ boxes

The typographical makeup of black-letter ballads was complex. Titles and captions were usually printed in roman letter (also known as white-letter) and preambles were often in roman type too; italic fonts were almost always used for proper names of places or people and for foreign words; the verses of black-letter songs used ‘old English’ font, and the same font was also used – often combined with roman or italic - in imprints (the short records of the publishers’ names that appear at the end of most ballads).

The database includes a small number of white-letter ballads. These were printed mainly in roman type but it was not uncommon for old English type to be used to emphasize particular words in the title, tune, or verses. As with black-letter ballads, italic type was used for proper names. In rare cases, an entire ballad was printed in italic font.

On the website, we have adopted the following conventions for presenting these typographical differences and other aspects of the graphic layout of ballads (titles, tunes, and imprints):

Titles entered in the Stationers' Company Registers

In order to compensate for the likely many missing editions of ballads, all registrations have been counted as editions, even if a probable copy of the registered edition is extant.

Entries in the registers are recorded in the ‘Title’ and Tune title’ boxes as follows:

Lost or missing information re titles and tunes

Ballads with musical notation

Where ballad sheets carry music notation, or a first verse is underscored with music notation, this is recorded in the tune box thus:

Conventions re paired songs

  1. ‘Imprint’ Boxes

Imprints provide important information about the ownership of new editions and often about reprinting. Imprints are entered into the database showing line breaks and typographical make-up using the same conventions as for ‘Titles and Tunes’, noted above.

Missing imprints are noted as follows:

  1. ‘Surviving copies’ Boxes

We have included a great deal of information about each edition in the Surviving Copies box.

Conventions for each type of information are listed separately below.

Located Copies

The convention for describing each located copy is made up of two parts (A and B):

A:  Holding library (abbreviated) & Collection + Holding library’s shelf mark


B: Digital image information for each surviving copy is recorded [in square boxes] as follows:

Unverified and Not found Copies

The ‘Surviving Copies’ boxes indicate where bibliographical data on extant sheets are uncertain because we have not yet seen the copy listed by ESTC.

These are recorded as follows:

In some cases, the ESTC lists copies of editions that cannot be located. This can be because, on investigation, the listed item is in fact a copy of a different edition, or because we are not able to find details of the copy in the listed holding library’s catalogue.

This situation is recorded in a 'Surviving Copies' box note, as for example: 

‘Not found’ ballads have not been counted in popularity scoring.  

Copy sources other than ballad sheets

Given the poor survival rates for ballads published before c. 1620, we decided to use two additional sources to augment the records of the earlier period:

Copies from the Shirburn Manuscript:

The Shirburn Manuscript – a contemporary’s handwritten copy of nearly eighty now lost printed ballads dating from between 1600 and 1616 - was transcribed, edited, and published by Andrew Clarke in 1907. Clarke dated the Shirburn MS ballads as follows:

The convention for entering Shirburn copies in the database follow those for registered ballads (see above) with the following note in the 'Surviving Copies' box:

Copies from Thomas Deloney’s Garland of Delights:

Deloney was the most successful ballad-writer of the 1590s and his songbooks were predominantly collections of his broadsides. Where these have been included in the database they are noted in the 'Surviving Copies' box as follows:

Imprinted licences

Imprinted licence straplines (see Ballad Business essay) are noted in the ‘Surviving Copies’ box for each edition as follows:

Registered titles

These are recorded in the ‘Surviving Copies’ boxes using the following conventions:

No known edition

Pavier and Partners Registrations in 1624 and 1629:

Coles, Vere, Wright, Clarke registrations:

Dating imprinted editions of registered titles

(For further historical explanation of these conventions see the Ballad Business Essay).

The ‘Surviving Copies’ box notes the application of dating conventions based on our knowledge of the working of the Ballad Partnership. This includes imprints naming individual Ballad Partners (i.e. Henry Gosson, Edward Wright, John Wright I, and Francis Coles/Coules) on registered partnership titles between 1624 (the formation of the partnership) and 1656 (after which date all partner names were required on imprints). Such notes take the following form as appropriate:

The 'Surviving Copies' box also notes the application of dating conventions based on our knowledge of Francis Grove’s and Thomas Lambert’s imprints and registrations.

For example:

Dating Thomas Symcock imprints

[For fuller information, see the Ballad Business essay].

In 1618, James I awarded Thomas Symcock and Roger Wood rights to all publications printed on one side of a sheet but the patent was vigorously opposed in the courts by the Stationers’ Company. No imprints naming Symcock and Wood have been found and the historical record suggests that – due to legal obstacles - they were unable to print any texts. In August 1628, Symcock renewed his claims and immediately began to have songs printed under his name while the Stationers contested his rights to print in Parliament and the courts. The case dragged on until the court finally found against Symcock in 1631. All Symcock imprints are therefore assumed to date from the period 1628-1631.

  1. ‘Holding Libraries’ boxes

The name of each holding library is given unless there is ‘no known copy’ of an edition (as for registered ballads) or the ballad is drawn from an alternative source such as the Shirburn manuscript or the printed Deloney collection (see above).

  1. ‘Publishers’ Boxes
  1. ‘Date’ Boxes

Every 100 Ballads edition has been dated by a specific year or within a likely date range.

Information regarding the publication dates of editions (i.e. ‘not before’ or ‘not after’ a particular date) is drawn from

Contextual reasons for conjectures on dates and date ranges for each edition are recorded in the ‘Surviving Copies’ boxes.

For example:


Our list of topics reflects what seem to us to be the most important themes covered in the texts of the ballads that are either featured on the website or summarised briefly in the featured tune histories and woodcut histories. For each entry, there is a main topic and a subsidiary topic, presented in the form ‘Gender – courtship’. In the summaries that appear on the page of each featured ballad, the topics are arranged alphabetically.

Full list of topics

The main topics are in bold font (and the subsidiary topics are in brackets).

Bodies (adornment; bodily functions; clothing; health/sickness; injury; looks/physique; nourishment).

Crime (antisocial; arson; clipping coins; debt; desertion; false weight and measure; false witness; general; heresy; immorality; infanticide; murder; outlaws; piracy; prison; punishment; rape; receiving stolen goods; robbery/theft; tax evasion; treason; witchcraft).

Death (accident; burial/funeral; childbirth; diabolical; duelling/jousting; execution; general; ghostly abduction; godly end; grief; heartbreak; illness; immoderate love; neglect; old age; providential; result of immorality; suicide; tragedy; unlawful killing; warfare).

Disability (general; mental; physical).

Economy (credit/debt; extortion; general; hardship/prosperity; household; livings; money; prices/wages; rural/urban; shopping; taxation; trade).

Emotions (anger; anxiety; confusion; contentment; despair; disdain; excitement; fear; frustration; general; greed; guilt; hatred; hope; horror; jealousy; joy; longing; love; patriotism; pride; relief; scorn; shame; sorrow; suspicion; sympathy; wonder).

Employment (agrarian; alehouses/inns; apprenticeship/service; begging; crafts/trades; female/male; general; professions; prostitution; sailors/soldiers; services; unemployment; urban).

Environment (animals; birds; buildings; crops; fairies; flowers/trees; garden; general; landscape; rivers; roads; sea; seasons; skies/stars; weather; wonders).

Family (children/parents; pregnancy/childbirth; general; inheritance; kin; siblings).

Gender (adultery/cuckoldry; courtship; cross-dressing; Cupid; femininity; general; incest; marriage; masculinity; mixed sociability; sex; sexual violence; singles).

History (ancient/mythological; general; heroism; medieval; nostalgia; recent; romance; villainy).

Humour (bawdry; deceit/disguise; domestic/familial; extreme situations/surprises; general; misunderstanding; mockery; satire; scatalogical; verbal).

Morality (familial; general; political; romantic/sexual; social/economic).

News (convicts/crimes; domestic; general; international; political; sensational).

Places (English; European; extra-European; general; Irish; nationalities; Scottish; travel/transport; Welsh).

Politics (celebration; Civil War; controversy; court; domestic; elections; foreign affairs; general; Glorious Revolution; Jacobite; obedience; parliament; plots/rebellion; Popish Plot/Exclusion; power; Restoration; royalist; satire; Tories/Whigs; treason; war).

Recreation (alcohol; coffee; dance; fairs/festivals; fashions; good fellowship; food; games/sports; general; hospitality; hunting; music; military/naval song; public festivity; reading/writing; riddles; sight-seeing; story-telling; swimning/bathing; theatre; tobacco; weddings; walking).

Religion (ancient gods; angels; astrology; atheism; Bible; blasphemy; body/soul; Catholicism/Protestantism; charity; Christ/God; christening; church; clergy; conjuration/witchcraft; Devil(s); divine intervention; election; faith; general; ghosts/spirits; heathens/infidels; heaven/hell; heroism; indulgences; Judaism; Judgement Day; moral rules; mortality; Muslims; pilgrimage; prayer; Protestant/puritan; prophecy; Protestant nonconformity; purgatory; relics; saints; sin/repentance).

Royalty (authority; criticism; general; incognito; praise).

Society (criticism; education; friends; general; neighbours; old/young; race relations; rural life; rich/poor; urban life).

Violence (animals; at sea; between states; chivalric; civil war; diabolical; divine; domestic; general; interpersonal; political; punitive; self-inflicted; sexual).

Christopher Marsh and Angela McShane

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