Revealing the Objects: Ballads

Collections / Digitisation - Posted 13-07-2018

As of October 2018 the Library will share a number of additional items from its collections on Europeana, a European digital cultural platform. We are currently working with 12 other partner institutions on a project entitled ‘The Rise of Literacy’ which aims to explore the history of reading and writing in Europe. In this weekly blog – ‘Revealing the Objects, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

Below is a selection of ballads that will be contributed as part of the project.

Ballad-pamphlets were produced on a mass scale by the new printing presses in Wales during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Hawkers often sang ballads aloud in the market-place or at the fairground. With regards to content; some were of a religious and moral tone and others discussed historic and current affairs; such as local and national crimes, riots and industrial accidents and incidences.

The ballad played an important role in the social and cultural life of Wales during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By the nineteenth century ballads were being printed at 96 towns and villages across Wales and were bought in their thousands, often by individuals of the lower classes. Their populist nature attracted and recruited many new Welsh readers.


Alban Thomas, ‘Cân o senn iw hên feistr Tobacco’, 1718

‘Cân o senn iw hên feistr Tobacco’ was the first ballad to be published in Wales by an official press. It was published by Isaac Carter’s Press at Trefhedyn in 1718. The ballad discusses the evil and immoral nature of tobacco.

Lewis Davies, ‘Pennillion a wnaeth Lewis Davies o Lanrwst, i ffarwelio a’i wlad wrth gychwyn i America’, 18??

Lewis Llanrwst Davies bids farewell to his fellow-countrymen as he begins his journey to America.

Ywain Meirion, ‘Rhyfel-gan, am wrthryfel yr India, a gorchfygu y gelynion, a meddiannau Delhi’, 18??

This broadside is a war-song. Meirion discusses the insurrection of India and the defeat of the ‘enemy’ as the British army take possession of Delhi.

Unknown Author, ‘Ymweliad y cholera, ynghyd â galwad ar bawb i ymofyn am gymod â Duw cyn eu symud i’r byd tragwyddol’, 18??

This ballad introduces two warnings with regards to the cholera epidemic in Wales. It informs of the disease, and it calls on every sufferer to seek reconciliation with God before moving to the eternal world.

Want to see more posts from this series? See below:


Elen Hâf Jones – Digital Access Projects Officer

This post was created as part of the Europeana Rise of Literacy Project

This post is also available in: Welsh

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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

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