Child Ballads

One commonly used source for ballads is Francis Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. However, if you're looking for pre-1600 ballads, only a few of Child's ballads survive in manuscripts which pre-date 1600, and few of them have music, although other ballads with later words use music which can be dated before 1600. I plan on eventually having some documentation of them, words and music, but for now I merely have a list from Livingston (apparently a serious conservative on this topic ... and she didn't provide a footnote) of Child ballads for which pre-1600 manuscripts are known. In all these cases no music is known. I took names and manuscript details for these out of MacLeach and Bronson. Child probably has additional details not found in this list.

Child Ballads with pre-1600 music

Child Ballads with pre-1600 text but no pre-1600 music

That's 14 out of 305. An additional half-dozen Child ballads have a ballad with a similar name listed in the Stationers' Register before 1600; these are (says Livingston): Presumably most of these are discussed in Rollin's book on the Stationer's register.

If you search in William Olson's listing of 17th century ballads for the word "Child", you can find a large number of references to more recent Child ballads.

There is also a longer article on the web entitled Early Child Ballads.

There's also this webpage about Child Ballads.


Return to the Sixteenth Century Ballads project.