MRTS Texts for Teaching, Vol. 6
Broadside Ballads from the Pepys Collection: A Selection of Texts, Approaches, and Recordings
Includes two audio CDs with the recorded ballads.
How can students and scholars in an informed way navigate the large and multifarious offerings of the online English Broadside Ballad Archive (EBBA, ebba.english.ucsb.edu)? How can they begin to make sense of its largest collection of seventeenth-century broadside ballads: the over 1,800 printed ballads gathered by Samuel Pepys? How can they see the logic behind Pepys’s various categories by which he assembled his ballads? And how can they begin to comprehend what it is exactly — considered aesthetically and culturally —they are reading, viewing, and hearing?
Broadside Ballads from the Pepys Collection is designed to answer these questions. A groundbreaking selected edition in its own right, it also serves as a valuable handbook by which to approach what can seem like a many-headed hydra database of pre-1701 broadside ballads, and specifically the Pepys ballads. It clearly and helpfully offers an inroad through the massive metadata, facsimile images, transcriptions, tune recordings, and essays that make EBBA simultaneously extraordinarily useful and at times downright daunting to users. It offers something no other published edition of Pepys’s ballads has ever offered: first, a guide to the culture and formal features of broadside ballads as well as to the collecting practices in which Samuel Pepys took part; secondly, short and informative essays that introduce readers to each of Pepys’s collecting categories, which are supplemented by 155 representative Pepys ballads offered in EBBA’s trademark "facsimile transcription" form—facsimiles that importantly preserve ballad illustrations and formatting while replacing the often difficult-to-read early modern print with easily accessible times roman—as well as CDs of recordings of the first two stanzas of each selected ballad, whenever the melody is extant (for one wonderful four-tune ballad “jig,” the edition includes a recording of the entire song). A further helpful aide is the glossary clarifying difficult words and phrases (such as “jig”).
If the online database of EBBA offers users dozens of pathways for exploring early modern broadside ballads in their full cultural and multivalent or ‘promiscuous’ (to use Pepys’s own word) dimensionality, Fumerton's handbook offers the reader a clear, while always suggestive, route through the Pepys collection. With this handbook "in hand," scholars and students can together penetrate the logic of Samuel Pepys's organizational system for collecting his ballads and the ballad culture from which it emerged. As importantly, the handbook serves as a guide for further browsing EBBA's online database--now with a more experienced eye--allowing for more knowing searching, whether for more ballads or tunes in Pepys's collection, or for more early modern ballads generally with the same subject, tune, illustration, etc.