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Non-Academic Development and Transmission of Popular Songs: England and Scotland (Exhibit Case 2)
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An exhibit of material from the collection of Lewis Becker, Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law. March 13, 2006 – April 28, 2006 Falvey Memorial Library Villanova University

Non-Academic Development and Transmission of Popular Songs: England and Scotland (Exhibit Case 2)

Broadside ballads had long been the method of transmitting the words, and sometimes the music, of popular songs. This was in contrast to the scholarly interest in what would now be called “traditional” ballads and songs that developed after the publication of Percy’s Reliques. Broadside ballads are a single sheet containing the words of a song or ballad, along with an illustration and sometimes the name of a tune to which the words could be sung. Bound collections of these broadside ballads were sometimes made by those who could afford the expenditure of doing so.

sing_0087_small.JPGThe Pepys Ballads. Ed. By Geoffrey Day. 5 v.
Cambridge: Brewer, 1987

These volumes are from a later edition of a popular collection of broadside ballads brought together by Samuel Pepys (1633-1703).

Chapbooks and songsters were another means of distributing the words of popular songs. Chapbooks were cheaply printed smaller books containing stories, poems, religious texts, and songs.  Some chapbooks, often entitled “Garlands,” were devoted exclusively to songs, setting forth the words without any music, but often with a subtitle stating the name of the tune that should be used for the song.  Garlands were often printed on one sheet of paper; the paper was then folded into eight pages to make a book.  Illustrated in the exhibition are a single unfolded sheet and a folded sheet.

sing_0084_copy_small.jpgSeven Popular Songs.
Falkirk, Scotland: Printed by R. Taylor, 1825


Four Excellent New Songs.
Newton Stewart, Scotland: Printed and sold by J.M’Nairn, [1820’s]

Collection of Garlands.
Newcastle: J. Marshall; Stirling, Scotland: W. Macnie, [1820’s]


Sometimes collectors of Garlands bound them into a book.  An example of this is seen in this volume of 30 garlands bearing the bookplate of Mary and Henry Ponsonby. Henry Ponsonby was private secretary to Queen Victoria.sing_0083copy2_small.jpg

In general, songsters aimed at the transmission of popular songs, but since some traditional songs were chiefly sung, and hence popular, there was no clear line of demarcation between traditional and recently composed popular songs.  Some songsters had Irish content, but, as with other subjects, collections were often a mix of the traditional, the newly popular, and the recently composed. A popular theme in these songsters was the portrayal of a stereotypical “stage Irishman.”

sing_0085_copy_small.jpgHudson, Thomas. Comic Songs.
London: Printed by Brown for T. Hudson, 1824

This bound volume contains eight separate and different publications of Comic Songs by Thomas Hudson

sing_0076_small.JPGThe Victoria Songster for 1839, being a Choice Selection of all of the Popular Songs of the Day.
London: Joseph Sanders, 1839

Thrush, a Choice Selection of the Most Admired Popular Song.
London: Richardson, [ca. 1820-40]

Paul Pry’s Budget of Harmony for the Year 1828, Being a Careful Selection of all the Prying, Whimsical, Funny, Comical, and Serious Songs, Glees, and Catches. London: J. Smith, n.d.

sing_0078ps_small.jpgBound with: National Songster, Comprising a Choice Selection of Popular New Songs, including Those now Singing at the Theaters Royal. London: B. Jones, 1831

Crosby’s English Musical Repository
London: Stationary Court, [1810’s]

The tune to Anacreon in Heaven is often cited as the basis for the tune to The Star Spangled Banner

The late 1700s and early 1800s saw the publication of collections of popular songs. Some were described as containing “the esteemed English, Irish, and Scotch songs…as sung at the theaters and convivial parties.”  Crosby’s… Musical Repository represents this type of publication.

Crosby’s Irish Musical Repository; a Choice Selection of Esteemed Irish Songs Adapted fosing_0077_small.JPGr the Voice, Violin and German Flute [London]: B. Crosby, [ca. 1820]