Harding was born in London and retained British nationality, but lived in Chicago and pursued a career as a music-hall pianist and cinema organist. His vast collections of ballads, songbooks, poetic miscellanies and sheet music (among other materials) were bequeathed to the Bodleian, where they arrived in 1975. His collection of over 15,000 ballads is mostly 19th-century, with many 18th-century items, and includes also photographs and transcripts of songs and ballads in other collections (e.g, the Madden Collection, Cambridge University Library; Samuel Pepys Collection, Pepysian Library, Magdalene College, Cambridge; and Narcissus Luttrell Collection, British Library). Their content includes llamplighter and newsmen's poems, murder sheets, election sheets, and many other topical and traditional subjects.
Bibliography: W N H Harding, 'British song books and kindred subjects' (Contemporary collectors, 33), Book Collector XI (1962), p448-59.
Below are the volumes contained in this collection, click to expand.