- "Broadside ballads were popular songs, sold for a penny or half-penny in the streets of towns and villages around Britain between the sixteenth and early twentieth centuries. These songs were performed in taverns, homes, or fairs -- wherever a group of people gathered to discuss the day's events or to tell tales of heroes and villains. As one of the cheapest forms of print available, the broadside ballads are also an important source material for the history of printing and literacy. Lavishly illustrated with woodcuts, they provide a visual treat for the reader and offer a source for the study of popular art in Britain."
from the Bodleian ballad site
Broadside ballad collections online
- Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/ballads/
- The Word on the Street (National Library of Scotland) http://www.nls.uk/broadsides/
- The Axon Collection of Broadside Ballads. The Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society's Axon Ballad collection. Kept at Chetham's Library, Manchester http://www.chethams.org.uk/axon_ballads/index.htm
Claude M. Simpson (1966) The British Broadside Ballad and Its Music
Simpson's book is the standard, classic text on the tunes to which British broadsides were intended to be sung. However this seminal work is now difficult to access, expensive, and long out of print.
However, Bruce Olsen, the US ballad and broadside scholar, has left us, along with other valuable scholarly resources, a legacy of musical files in abc notation that contain transcriptions of all of the broadside tunes in Simpson. These are freely available online from either of these websites: and 
An analysis and classification of the tunes communicated to us by Simpson is included in the following conference paper:
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