The Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford hold close to 30,000 printed broadside ballads and this collection facilitates digital access to these ballads and those held in other important collections.
Broadside ballads were popular songs, sold cheaply in printed form across Great Britain from the 16th to the 20th centuries. The ballads were performed publically in taverns, homes, fairs and other unofficial public gatherings. They were wittily illustrated and their lyrics often echoed contemporary themes - such as religion, politics, satire and bawdy, comic tales.
Although broadside ballads were enormously popular, few printed samples have survived to the present day. Users can now access these rare historical sources online and study digitised printed ballad sheets and different copies of the same ballad, with some ballads also accompanied by digital sound files.
The Bodleian Ballads site also hosts links to the broadside ballads archive of the University of California and the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.