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Nineteenth Century Music Broadsides


Printed lyrics of popular songs were extremely popular from the 16th century until the early 20th century. They were commonly known as broadsides or broadsheets. Over time, the name came to refer to any printed matter confined to one side of a single sheet of paper, such as handbills, advertisements, posters, etc.

Broadsides were generally printed on one side of a piece of paper and included only the lyrics. Printed music usually wasn't included but sometimes the name of a popular tune would appear below the title. Since folk tunes were used and reused, people generally only needed to learn the words. Music was not included because a monopoly on music publishing had been granted by Queen Elizabeth to two court musicians.

One of the first known broadsides was A Lytel Geste of Robyne Hood, printed in 1506. Their popularity grew quickly-one merchant sold 190 ballads in 1520, a remarkable sum, which may be evidence of relatively high levels of literacy at the time. After 1556, printers were required to register with the Stationers' Company in London, and had to pay four pence to register each ballad beginning in 1557 and continuing to 1709. As well as being popular in the UK, they became popular in western Europe and the United States.

Broadsides were often folded into pamphlets called chapbooks. The collection of songs and ballads in chapbooks were known as garlands.

Although broadsides enjoyed a brief resurgence of popularity in the late 19th century, this proved short-lived. By the beginning of the 20th century, broadsides were declining in popularity due to the influx of newspapers, and the tradition soon died out. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

We Are For The Union. As Sung By Our Volunteers. Civil War Era Broadside Songsheet. 1861-65. Not dated. No publisher noted, 4.5" x 7.5" (Stock number 003broadUnion) $50.00

Red, White, & Blue. Patriotic Songsheet. Sold at Wholesale By Charles Emerson with B. Leverett Emerson. Boston. 1860-61. Not dated 6" x 9" Click to view (Stock number 003broadRed) $50.00

The Prisoner's Hope. Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! Words and Music by Geo. F. Root. Carncross & Dixey's Opera House Eleventh Street Above Chestnut. A. W. Auner Phila Publisher. 1865-75. 6" x 8.75" Click to view (Stock number 003broadPris) $50.00

Sing Me To Sleep My Mother . Sold at Wholesale by Horace Partridge. Boston. 1859-60. Not dated. 6.25" x 9". Click to view( Stock number 003broadMother) $50.00


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