Brereton Ballad Sheets, Dublin, 19th Century

Brereton ballad sheets are quite distinct in style. Poor paper, poor quality of print, misprints, misspellings and omissions are commonplace. A good example of his poor printing practice is demonstrated in one of the ballad sheets presented here, The Lovely Maid of Williamstown, in which ‘Williamstown’ is spelt in no less than six different ways throughout the ballad.

Brereton ballads were illustrated with the same few pictorial woodcuts. More often than not, the woodcut bears no relation to the subject matter of the song, and the same woodcut was often re-used many times on different sheets.

ITMA has an extensive collection of over 3,400 original and copied ballad sheets; of these 330 contain the Brereton imprint. The full collection of ballad sheets is available to visitors within the Archive.

With thanks to Leslie Shepard, Jill Shepard Glenstrup, Dan Milner, & Dr John Moulden, who has donated to ITMA a copy of his 2006 Ph.D. thesis The Printed Ballad in Ireland: A Guide to the Popular Printing of Songs in Ireland, 1760–1920. ITMA would welcome the donation of other materials of this kind which are not yet in its collections, or of their loan for copying.

MG, 1 October 2015