1. What is The English and Scottish Popular Ballads?
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads was Harvard professor Francis James Child's attempt to publish every known variant text from the ballad tradition of England and Scotland. Working nearly entirely from manuscripts, he compiled 305 ballads, most with multiple variants. Professor Child also attempted to trace the historic and literary roots of the ballads he assembled, making use of his extensive knowledge of history and folklore to place each ballad in its larger historical and cultural context. More than a century later, the term "Child ballad" is still used to refer to any of the ballads included in this collection.
The first edition was published over the course of 1883-1898, the five volumes of the work spanning ten physical volumes, printed in a limited edition of 1000. The design of our new edition is inspired by the binding of this first edition.
2. How does this edition differ from the previous editions?
Since the original publication at the end of the nineteenth century, two facsimile editions have been released, one in 1956, and another in 1965. This new edition is not a facsimile. The more than 2500 pages of the original edition have been painstakingly converted to digital form, newly typeset, and corrected according to Professor Child's own notes. All cross-references and index entries have been updated to reflect the new pagination, and the original page numbers are noted in the margins as a reference aid.
3. What do you mean by "Corrected Edition"?
Professor Child's research continued during the fifteen years over which his work was published, and he frequently received new material or discovered errors or oversights in the volumes that had already been issued. As a result, each original volume contains an appendix of "Additions and Corrections" which he wished to apply to the preceding material. These include more than one hundred new ballad variants and hundreds of corrections, revisions, and expansions to the historical analyses. We have carefully applied all of the corrections and inserted the new material at the appropriate locations, making it readily accessible for the first time, and producing an edition in accordance with Professor Child's original intent.
4. Will an "uncorrected" edition also be available?
No such edition is currently planned, but since the correction process involved creating a full reference text of the original edition, this material may be made available, most probably in digital form (see below).
5. Have any other changes been made to the text?
No changes have been made that are not included in the corrections discussed above. Page layout and typography have been updated to improve legibility, but the text stands as originally printed.
6. What about a searchable electronic version for scholarly use?
Once publication of the five-volume set is complete, we plan to export the contents into a structured database to allow for complex searches and comparisons, and make this information freely available to the Internet community.
7. What about a smaller, abridged edition?
After Professor Child's death, Helen Sargent and George Kittredge, who had worked closely with Child, edited a single volume compilation of material from the full edition, omitting most of the commentary and including only the most complete ballad texts. We are considering publishing a new edition of this work, if interest warrants.