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
- 283 Heigh ho holiday, music in Holborne's Pauens, galliards,
almains, etc, 1599.
- Shaking of the Sheets? 16th c. version is different from Playford, Bronson
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):
- 22 St. Stephen and Herod, Sloan MS 2593 "15th century"
- 23 Judas, Trinity College, Cambridge MS B. 14.39 "13th century"
- 111 Crow and Pie, Bod. MS Rawl. C.813, c. 1500.
- 115 Robyn and Gandeleyn, Sloan MS 2593 "c. 1450"
- 116 Adam Bell, broadsides? XXX
- 117 Bold Dickie
- 119 Robin Hood and the Monk, Cambridge MS Ff.4.48 "15th century"
- 121 Robin Hood and the Potter, Cambridge MS Ee.4.35 "late 15th century"
- 161 The Battle of Otterburn, Cotton MS. Cleopatra C.iv "c. 1550",
the battle was in 1388
- 162 The Hunting of Cheviot, MS. Ashmole 48, Bodleian "c. 1550"
- 168 (Appendix) ?
- 178 Captain Car, or Edom O Gordon, Cotton MS. Vespasian 4 xxv, 67, "16th century"
- 187 [not noted by Livingston] Joc o the Side, "Assist me now, you
doleful dames" in MS Rawl poet. 185 (c. 1590) has a tune
direction of "Hobbinoble and John a Side", and it seems to
have a similar structure to Child's later ballads.
- 273 (Appendix II) King Edward the Fourth and a Tanner of Tamworth, ?
Presumably most of these are discussed in Rollin's book on the
- 39 Tam Lin
- 56 Dives and Lazarus, "18th century broadsides"
- 124 The Jolly Pinder of Wakefield, Pepys, ii, 100, AI2829, 1557/8.
- 192 The Lochmaben Harper, "end of 18th century", the
only evidence of pre-1600 is entries in the Stationer's register
regarding blind harpers.
- 271 Lord of Lorn and the False Steward, AI 1546, 1580. To the
tune of Green-Sleeves (and it's entered one month after the
first Greensleeves ballad).
- 273 King Edward the Fourth and a Tanner of Tamworth, Pepys, ii, 129,
registered 1586, AI 1360.
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.