(Richard Ovenden, Bodleian Libraries; Dr Giles Bergel, Merton College, Oxford; the John Fell OUP Research Fund, Jan. - Sept. 2011)
In connection with the Bodleian Broadside Ballads Online
Results of the project:
Compared to weightier learned books, the plays, stories and songs that Thomas Bodley disdained as ‘riff-raff’, above all the ephemeral single-sided broadside ballads, are now the rarest of early printed materials. Yet these items continue to have broad appeal. They have proven valuable not only to researchers and teachers of the social and cultural life of the early modern period but also to a community outside the academy that includes musicians, urban and local historians, and folklorists. Engaging students and the wider community with images of the broadside formats as originally produced, instead of filtered through modern book editions, is the chief aim of this project.
The project includes a user-education workshop in methods of transcribing early printed ballads from black-letter type; image capture and analysis; an evaluative workshop on transcription standards; and a pilot for the online navigation of the visual as well as textual content of the collection.
The Bodleian Library is fortunate to have an outstanding collection of popular printed English broadside ballads spanning the 16th to early 20th centuries, many of them unique holdings. These have been catalogued in detail and since 1999 have been displayed in an online database that includes black-and-white scans made from greyscale microfilms. (http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/ballads/.) No transcriptions are linked to this resource. Web usage statistics and enquiries to the library show that this is a resource that is well used by academics and folksong enthusiasts alike. The current project is pump-priming for methods of increasing the interpretive content of the existing resource.