Cheap printed verse, providing entertainment and conveying local and foreign news of popular interest.
Most of the Cardiff ballads have been digitised, along with a range of scholarly articles on the topic: see the Welsh Ballads resource guide for details.
The library holds an extensive collection of 18th and 19th century Welsh ballads. Broadside ballads consisted of a piece of popular verse, typically of unknown authorship, printed on one side of a sheet of paper. They were sold at fairs and on street corners as small, cheap pamphlets, and thus represented a ‘daily newspaper’ for the poor, providing entertainment and conveying local and foreign news of popular interest. Ballads were often circulated locally among friends and family, or displayed in communal areas such as public houses. They are fragile and ephemeral items, which were not expected to survive more than a few days, and those which have contain fascinating historical information. Broadside ballads cover a variety of subject matter, providing an insight into customs, history, religion, music, literature and language. Moreover, Welsh ballads are of particular value to those studying popular culture and local history.
North-east Wales and the Welsh Marches were the centre of the market in Welsh broadside ballads in the 18th century. The 19th 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 19th century progressed.
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