Digital images of a cross-section of ballads from the Salisbury Library
The heyday of broadside ballad printing in Wales was the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The eighteenth-century broadside ballads were printed in the main in eight-page pamphlets, whereas the nineteenth-century broadside ballads were usually printed in four-page leaflets. About 1,000 pamphlets from the eighteenth century have survived in repositories, and over 8,000 leaflets from the nineteenth century.
North-east Wales and the Welsh Marches were the centre of the market in Welsh broadside ballads in the eighteenth century. The nineteenth century saw the centre of activity change to the industrial south-east of the country, although broadside ballads flowed from printing presses throughout the length and breadth of Wales during this period. The broadside ballad in Wales was predominantly a Welsh-language phenomenon, although English and bilingual broadside ballads became more frequent as the nineteenth century progressed.
These pamphlets and leaflets contained popular poetry on a wide variety of subjects. They are a treasure trove of primary source materials for anyone interested in the language, literature, history, religion and music of the Welsh. They also provide an extremely valuable insight into the customs, interests and world-view of the common people of Wales.
The Salisbury Library - Cardiff University's renowned Welsh and Celtic collection - holds a significant and extensive collection of Welsh broadside ballads. The collection contains around 2,000 broadsides, mainly from the nineteenth century. A number of these are unique items. In addition, the Salisbury Library has microfilm copies of the substantial collection of Welsh broadside ballads held in the Library of Bangor University, together with microfilm copies of the Madden Ballads collection at Cambridge University Library and the Sabine Baring Gould and Thomas Crampton collections at the British Library.
Cardiff University holds the rights to the digital images on this website. Prior permission to reproduce them in any medium must be sought from the University.