Library Street Literature
Street Literature refers to the ephemeral literature (such as broadsides and chapbooks) distributed and sold in city streets, country fairs, and from pedlar's packs across the country from between the 15th to the early 20th centuries. The content ranged from wonder-tales and recipes to almanacs for the year, but a very large proportion contained songs and ballad lyrics. The songs sometimes reflected contemporary issues, such as working conditions, political commentary, or reporting on a recent tragedy or grizzly murder – broadside songs became a good source for hearing the latest news. Otherwise broadsides may have reprinted the lyrics to favourite old ballads with timeless stories (such as Barbara Allen), or which had been given a new lease of life with a few small alterations.
Broadsides were sold to all classes of society, and were an important part of the music industry before the advent of recording technology. This “print tradition” often intermingled with the “oral tradition”, and a large number of folk songs have been found printed on broadsides at some point or other. Many of the early folk song collectors had their own collections of broadsides to refer to, including Lucy Broadwood, Frank Kidson, Cecil Sharp, and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Here, the Library Street Literature collection refers to the VWML’s own collection of street literature purchased by the library. It is a growing collection, and so new materials will be added as and when they are acquired.