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A MAGAZINE OF BIBLIOGRAPHY
Reprinted with the permission of The Library Association
KRAUS REPRINT LTD.
AP oh 695 SERI
Lord Crawford's Ballad Catalogue."
class of fugitive literature has had so great a tendency
to disappear as that of broadside ballads. Printed in sufficient anmbers to meet the demands of hawkers who vended them in the streets, at country fairs, or at the cottage doors of the peasantry, it may be easily conceived that as the price was small-invariably a penny—the ballad would be conned over by the purchaser, and perhaps passed from hand to hand until quite worn out; or, if it escaped that fate, it might be affixed to the kitchen wall where time and smoke rendered it an eyesore to be removed at the first house cleaning. The very popularity of the ballads ensured their destruction, and they shared with primary school-books the rough usage of the illiterate and the young.
That so many broadside ballads have survived is greatly due to far-seeing men such as Samuel Pepys and John Bagford, who considered all fish that came to their net, and by storing up ephemeral prints have earned the gratitude of students of a later time. The difficulty of procuring these ballads in any number at the present day is very great, and we can only wonder at the marvellous success that has attended Lord Crawford's efforts in forming a collection of the magnitude of that described in the Catalogue recently printed. Very different was it in former times when Mr. Jonathan Oldbuck, Laird of Monkbarns, triumphantly explained to his visitor, Mr. Lovel,“ See this bundle of ballads, not one of them later than 1700, and some of them an hundred years older. I wheedled an old woman out of these, who loved them better than her psalm-book. Tobacco, sir, snuff, and the Complete Syren, were the equivalent.” But we very much doubt whether like good fortune may ever befall a nineteenth-century collector, for apart from the present collection,
"A short preliminary notice will be found in The Library, vol. ii. 471,
those of any extent in private libraries can easily be counted on the fingers of one hand. It is always a matter of interest to learn in what
way collection as Lord Crawford's has been formed, and we feel that we cannot do better than state it in his own words: " It has grown from modest size to considerable volume. I bought a few at first as typographical curiosities, and to illustrate the woodcut ideas of the times, but I soon desired to acquire more. I found an opportunity, and bought of Mr. Ellis the three volumes which had at one time belonged to Mr. Ouvry, late President of the Society of Antiquaries-a collection which, I believe, had originally been formed by Mr. J. Payne Collier. This interesting series had been catalogued by Mr. T. W. Newton in the year 1877, when a few copies were printed for private distribution. To these three volumes I gradually added five others, or some five or six hundred additional pieces of varied interest. But by far the most valuable acquisition I have been able to make was the purchase, in 1885, of Lots 139, 140, and 141 of the Jersey sale. The collection, as it came into my hands, consisted of 787 ballads, having but few duplicates among them. About 60 of these I placed in the British Museum, on learning that they were greatly wished for there; the remainder were incorporated with my own. Since that date only one collection of any importance has come into the market, and that I was fortunate enough to secure from the Messrs. Sotheran."
If Lord Crawford has done well in acquiring his collection, he has certainly done better in presenting his friends with a complete descriptive catalogue of the ballads. Rarely is it our good fortune to find a work so unexceptionably good in every respect. The information contained in it is fully but concisely stated; there is every evidence of great pains having been taken to secure accuracy; and far from being a dry statement of bibliographical facts, the volume is replete with interest to the historian and the student of manners and customs of bye-gone days. Let us take as an instance the ballads on “Young Jemmy," the Duke of Monmouth. We have descriptions of poetical compositions on the various events of his tragic career, from his banishment by his father to Holland to the defeat of his forces at Sedgemoor. This naturally leads on to the “ Bloody Assize," on which we have the ballad commencing :
“ Alas! we Widdows of the West
Whose Husbands did Rebell."
From that we pass to the fate of the chief actor in that foulest tragedy in England's history, and among the Elegies we find one on Sir George Jeffreys, written " at the Request of the Widows of the West, whose Husbands were Hang'd without Tryal by this Lord Chancellor." This is only a slight indication of the value of the present Catalogue as recording popular feeling on the passing events in a stirring period of the nation's history. In the same manner we might quote the ballads on Titus Oates and the Popish Plot, on Dutch William and his Queen, on the great generals Monk and Marlborough, and on the statesman Shaftesbury, but enough has been said to show the importance of these ballads in helping one to form an opinion of the estiination in which public characters were held by their contemporaries.
Then, again, the old ballads depict in colours that time cannot fade many customs of the past. The dance round the May-pole, the sorrows of the lover separated from his lass by the press-gang, the humours of Bartholomew Fair, the barbarous scenes at public executions, the licensed beggar or Gaberlunzy Man-are only a few of the topics treated of in compositions which were in a very special degree the popular literature of the age. It has been well said by one who recognized the vast power that lay in them to influence the people—“Let me write a nation's ballads and I care not who makes her laws."
We now pass to the methods of describing the broadsides. In the first place we may state that the following catalogues of ballads have been printed, all of which may be very summarily dismissed. Mr. Huth's are described in the catalogue of his library, but it is merely an enumeration of the titles in the order in which the ballads have been bound up in volumes. The Euing collection, now in Glasgow University Library, was catalogued by Mr. J. 0. Halliwell for Mr. J. Russell Smith, with prices attached to each sheet, but the arrangement is by the first word of the title and there is no index, which renders the work of comparatively little value. The ballads in the Library of the Society of Antiquaries have been described in Mr. Robert Lemon's Catalogue of Broadsides ; unfortunately they are mixed up with prose pieces and the arrangement is chronological, but there is a fairly complete index. Those in the Chetham Library are described in a work which may be characterised as-chaos. A number of the earliest ballads in the library at Britwell were described by Mr. W. Christie-Miller in a privately printed Alphabetical List, but the arbitrary selection of words