Song Books

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General Anthologies

Books of folk songs can be comprehensive anthologies of songs from a region, from a country, or a nation.

  • The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, A L Lloyd and Ralph Vaughan Williams, several editions from 1959 onwards, Penguin Books. Seventy songs selected from The Journal of the Folk-Song Society, with music, and the book most favoured by singers in the '60s revival as a source of songs.
    A revised edition, with more detailed notes, bibliography and information on the source singers, was published by EFDSS as Classic English Folk Songs in 2003, and can be bought from Web pages devoted to additions and corrections, with supporting material, can be seen at
  • The Singing Island, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, 1960, Mills Books. Another great favourite in the early revival. Mostly traditional songs, arranged by theme, and with music.
  • I'm A Freeborn Man, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, 1968, Oak Publications, New York. Tells the story of the eight Radio Ballads (1957 - 1964) commissioned by the BBC. This book contains the story of the original radio ballads, songs taken from some of the ballads and other contemporary songs of struggle and conscience.
  • Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, 1977, Routledge Keegan And Paul. The result of 15 years of collecting both in the south and south-eastern England and central and north-eastern Scotland. 130 songs arranged into themes along with stories. Excellent book.
  • Till Doomsday in the Afternoon, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, 1986, Manchester University Press. The result of 20 years of following the fortunes of the Stewarts of Blairgowrie, a family of Scots Travellers. An enormous treasury of tales, jokes, riddles, children's songs and and the words and music of some seventy songs.
  • Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland, Peter Kennedy, 1975, Cassell. Again the songs are arranged by theme, largely using versions collected by Kennedy himself. Has music, and copious notes on each song, with useful references to other versions.

Specific Subjects

  • Come All you Bold Miners, A L Lloyd, second edition 1978, Laurence and Wishart
  • A Taste of Ale, Roy Palmer, 2000, Green Branch, Lechlade
  • A Touch on the Times, Songs of Social Change 1770- 1914 Edited by Roy Palmer, Penguin Education 1974
  • The Rambling Soldier, Roy Palmer, 1977, Peacock Books
  • Songs and Music of The Redcoats (1642 - 1902), Lewis Winstock, 1970, Leo Cooper Ltd
  • One Hundred Songs of Toil, Karl Dallas, 1974, Wolfe
  • The Cruel Wars, 100 Soldiers Songs from Agincourt to Ulster Karl Dallas, 1974, Wolfe
  • Shanties from the Seven Seas, Stan Hugill, 1961, Routledge & Kegan Paul
  • Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland Elisabeth Bristol Greenleaf and Grace Yarrow Mansfield, 1933, Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • The Oxford Book of Sea Songs, Roy Palmer, 1986, Oxford University Press
  • Boxing The Compass - Sea Songs and Shanties - Roy Palmer, 2001, Herron Publishing (Previously The Oxford Book of Sea Songs - now expanded)


Books which concentrate on the songs collected by one or two collectors.

  • Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs, Maud Karpeles, 1974, Oxford University Press. About two-thirds of the songs and tunes collected in England in the early 1900s by the most prolific collector, mostly in their original forms, though not invariably accurately or completely transcribed by Dr Karpeles. In two volumes, but difficult to find except through university libraries and 'antiquarian' book dealers.

  • The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, Pat Shuldham Shaw, Emily B Lyle and others, 1981-2002, Aberdeen University Press and Mercat Press. The entire collection of the two Scots collectors Gavin Greig and John Duncan, who worked in Aberdeenshire at the same time as Sharp and his contemporaries were collecting mainly in the south and east of England. Eight volumes: numbers 2, 4, 7 and 8 of which can still be got from the publishers.

  • Marrow Bones, The Wanton Seed, The Constant Lovers, and The Foggy Dew, Frank Purslow, 1965 to 1973, EFDS Publications Ltd. A series of books with a selection of songs from the collections of Henry and Robert Hammond and George Gardiner, who collected mainly in Dorset and Hampshire respectively, again in the early 1900s. The books were intended for relative newcomers to folk song and, as was usual until very recently in 'popular' anthologies, many of the song texts were edited and collated in order to produce good 'singing' versions.
    A new, augmented edition of Marrow Bones will be published by EFDSS in spring 2007, and a new edition of The Wanton Seed is planned for early 2008.
  • As well as that series of books from the Hammond and Gardiner manuscripts the EFDSS published two books from the collecting of Fred Hamer and one from the collecting of Ken Stubbs. These were Garner's Gay English Folk songs collected by Fred Hamer (1967): The Life of a Man English Folk Songs from the Home Counties collected by Ken Stubbs (1970); and Green Groves More English Folk Songs collected by Fred Hamer (1973).
  • Folk Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Roy Palmer, 1983, J.M Dent

  • Bushes and Briars, Folk Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Roy Palmer, 1999, Llanerch Press (As 1983 but with corrections)