Pepys’ Broadside Ballads

Samuel Pepys was an avid collector of broadside ballads, which were at the height of their popularity in the 1660s, when Pepys was writing his diary.

Printed a large, single sheet of paper (thus ‘broadside’), these cheap, everyday items usually consisted of a news item, rhyme or ballad. Some 10,000 broadside ballads have survived into the present day, with Pepys’ collection consisting of some 1,800 items.

Often they would include a woodcut illustration and a name of a popular tune to be set to the words. The ballads were written on several topics, and Pepys sorted his into different categories, such as ‘History, True and Fabulous’, ‘Love Pleasant’ and ‘Love Unfortunate’.

Pepys Library Ballads IV. 366: The Maidens Resolution; or, An ANSWER to the ADVICE against TOP-KNOTS.  Printed for I. Blare, at the Sign of the Looking-Glass on London-Bridge. [1688].

Pepys Library Ballads IV. 366: The Maidens Resolution; or, An ANSWER to the ADVICE against TOP-KNOTS. Printed for I. Blare, at the Sign of the Looking-Glass on London-Bridge.
[1688].

The ballads tell us much of everyday life in the 17th century and often provided social commentary on events and fashions of the day.

Due to the size of the collection, the Pepys broadside ballads are a significant source of scholarship and we receive many scholarly enquiries about them.

One of the volumes of ballads can currently be viewed in the display cases of the Pepys Library. Please check the website for the public opening hours. Additionally, the whole ballad collection can be viewed online at the English Broadside Ballad Archive, a project run by the University of California. The images on this website have been digitised from a black and white electrostat of the originals.

Related links:

Text transcription of the ballad The Maidens Resolution.

Audio file of the melody to The Maidens Resolution.

By Catherine Sutherland

Deputy Librarian, Pepys Library and Special Collections

References

Day, G. (ed) : The Pepys Ballads. Catalogue of the Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Cambridge: Brewer, 1987.

‘The Pepys Collection – UCSB English Broadside Ballad Archive’. Accessed 14 July 2014. http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/page/Pepys.

One thought on “Pepys’ Broadside Ballads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s