Broadside Ballads Online

from the Bodleian Libraries


  • What’s in Broadside Ballads Online?

    This database contains images and catalogue records of printed broadside ballads from Bodleian and other collections. A broadside is an item printed on one side of a piece of paper. A ballad, in this resource, is a song-lyric that is often accompanied by a tune and which may also be accompanied on a broadside sheet by one or more illustrations.

    Broadside Ballads Online contains images and records for ballads in Bodleian collections. It also contains records for ballad collections that have been digitised by the English Broadside Ballads Archive (EBBA) at the University of California at Santa Barbara: these records contain links to images and transcriptions of ballads that EBBA makes available, alongside further information about ballad-culture. Broadside Ballads Online also contains information taken from the Roud Indexes maintained by the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

    More information about the collections

  • How are the ballads catalogued?

    The catalogue records describes broadside ballads as Items, Editions and Works.

    Items are the individual broadsides surviving within collections in libraries and archives, depicted in digital images. Several Items may be copies of the same Edition.

    An Edition is the complete press-run of broadsides printed at a particular time and place from a single setting of type, or other printing-surface. Records for the broadside edition include illustrations, decorations and the name and address of the printer, publisher or bookseller, if known. If more than one ballad was printed on the sheet, all the ballads on the sheet are listed by title and first line. Many of the records for Editions and Items contains information about their relationships with other ballads and to the ballad tradition as a whole, in particular through the concept of a ballad Work.

    The Work is the ballad as a distinct artistic creation. A ballad work may appear in a numerous different versions in various times and places, in performance, print, manuscript or audio or video recording. In Broadside Ballads Online, the Work identifier links printed ballads to broader traditions of literature and song. The BBO uses Steve Roud's index of folksongs, [as well as automated matching of titles and first lines], to suggest songs belonging to the same Work, which are related with the text "Part of work:"

  • How do I search Broadside Ballads Online?

    You can enter a word or phrase in the search box on any page. Pressing search will display Editions and Items that contain your search-term in any part of their catalogue records. Use the filters on the left of the Results page to refine the set of results that the search returns.

    You can also search on specific parts of the catalogue record by going to the "Search" tab. Again, the filters on the left will refine your results.

    As ballads belong to Works, search results will show other related ballads, if they are recorded, by a "Part of Work" link on the Edition part of the Record, even if the titles or first lines are different.

  • How do I browse Broadside Ballads Online?

    Clicking on the Browse tab brings up a number of ways of browsing catalogue records. You can browse by Subjects (as described by a cataloguer); Collections (the physical collections within which ballads are now to be found); Dates and Places of publication; the People responsible for producing ballads (authors, printers, publishers and booksellers); First Lines, Titles and Tunes given on the sheet; and the Imprints (the description of the ballad's producer, as given on the sheet).

  • Searching for visual material

    BBO gives access to the rich visual content of broadside ballads through two methods of discovering illustrations: subject searching and visual image matching.

    Ilustration Subject browsing:

    Every woodcut illustration in Bodleian Library ballad collections catalogued here has been described with the ICONCLASS classification scheme. This scheme allows browsing of the classification strings and keywords, which denote items or themes depicted in the illustrations.

    ICONCLASS organizes topics in 9 general categories; specific topics can be found by browsing down the hierarchies for more specific terms.

    For instance, within 4 Society, Civilization, Culture
    46 social and economic life, transport and communication
    46C traffic and transport
    46C2 traffic on the water
    46C24 sailing-ship, sailing boat

    As an example, below is the woodcut used as our home image. All of the ICONCLASS codes below are linked to the records for editions on which this image appears.

    48CC75621 ballad singer, outdoors

    25I144 city square

    41A3361 human figure at open window
    46B221 street trader (male)
    46BB221 street trader (female)
    46A17 working class
    46A131 bourgeoisie
    45D312 soldier
    46A112 social classes

    The ICONCLASS system is described here.

    Visual image-search

    Unlike ICONCLASS, which describes the subjects of illustrations, Image Search works to find purely visual likenesses. When you see the Image Search icon , click through to find the image of the ballad sheet in the Image Search environment. Here you can select any portion of the digital image and click “Search” to find matching impressions.

    Results of Image Search are ranked in order of closest match: the first result is the same sheet.

    Development of this Image Searching software has been carried-out by at the Department of Engineering Science’s Visual Geometry Group at the University of Oxford. The history of its development is given here and in a film here.

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