Featuring more than 80 illustrations and easy access to related music files, this magisterial work argues that a ballad cannot be read as a fixed artifact, independent of its illustrations, tune, and movement across time and space.
Oct 2020 | 512 pages | Cloth $89.95
Literature / Film Studies/Media Studies / Music / Library Science and Publishing
View main book page
Table of Contents
Note on Audio Tracks Website and Citation Conventions
Chapter 1. The Critical and Theoretical Parts: Moving, Assemblage, Publics, and Tactics
Part I. Assembling by Disassembling: Archives, Databases, and Ballad Bits
Chapter 2. Accessing the Artifact, Now and Then
Chapter 3. Random Tactical Hits
Part II. Remembering by Dismembering: Black Letter, Calligraphy, and Print History
Chapter 4. The Network of Black-Letter Broadside Ballad Collectors
Chapter 5. The Passing Present of Black Letter and Calligraphy
Part III. From Networks to Publics: Samuel Pepys
Chapter 6. Pepys and the Making of Gendered Publics
Chapter 7. Pepys and the Making of Political Publics
Part IV. Diachronic and Synchronic Ballad Publics: Crossing Society, History, and Space
Chapter 8. The Moving Violations of "The Lady and the Blackamoor"
Conclusion: The Limits of the Shakespearean Stage: Ballading The Winter's Tale
Sources for Music Notations
On a March afternoon in 2015, I felt the frisson of being touched by the hand of time. Seated with a colleague inside Manchester Central Library in England, having tracked to that unlikely locale two slim volumes of early modern broadside ballads (135 in total, most of them unique), and wondering how the heck they ended up in a public library in the mid-North of England, I was struck, as if physically, by a handprint some 400 years old. Small in size—only about 3? at the widest part of the palm's darkest impression and 6? to the height of the middle finger—the seventeenth-century hand could have belonged to a female helpmate or to a young male apprentice. The inked hand is caught in motion: as it was being laid down with a slight rolling of the fingers from left to right (you can see a partial thumbprint just above and to the right of the blackest part of the hand's palm-mark); then again as a part of the hand was placed on the sheet a second and maybe even a third time. The inky hand now touches the paper more lightly and only partially imprints itself, leaving just traces of the right edge of the palm, with more thumbprints, and smudges of possibly the index and bent middle fingers (Figure 1).
Then what? We don't know for sure, of course; I don't even know for sure whether the sequence of hand actions I have described so far is accurate. But to paint a larger imaginary scenario: Perhaps the perpetrator had distractedly (or tiredly) placed his—let's go with the best guess and say his—inky hand on a pile of printed ballad sheets, quickly lifted his hand on realizing his error, then tried, and ultimately succeeded, to lightly pick up the marred top sheet with as little touching as possible. Let's further suppose that, alarmed at leaving his inky marks on the paper, the apprentice surreptitiously slipped the sheet deeper into the stack of broadsides, where it would not be seen by his master, or at least not right away. In this admittedly imaginative re-creation, the broadside ballad then ended up being distributed to a publisher or directly to a consumer at the printer's shop, who thought it worth buying the imperfect, multiply imprinted ballad for the going rate of a pence or halfpence, or perhaps—if both distributor and consumer acknowledged its imperfection—accepting it for free. The new owner repeatedly folded, unfolded, and refolded the sheet, probably carrying it on his or her person to show off to friends in passing, as evidenced by the much-torn vertical crease running through the palm and second finger of the handprint and the less damaging horizontal crease running just below the woodcut illustrations.
Then more hands—whose hands?—at some point cut the whole sheet in half, and the second half (the better half?) subsequently disappeared. What remains of the original whole sheet—or what our archival searching hands have so far uncovered—is just the first half of the ballad, with handprint, pasted in what looks like an act of handy restoration onto a single piece of backing paper beside the second half of another cut-apart ballad sheet. It is as if the collector were attempting not only to preserve these individual bedraggled ballad parts but, in placing the halves side by side, to restore the look of a whole ballad (although the sheet fragments are unrelated and have not been pasted onto the album pages in the typical first-part/second-part order). The half sheet on the left, facing our half sheet with the handprint on the right, has been boldly numbered in ink from a previous assemblage (as was probably the case of the now-disappeared second half of our marred ballad). Perhaps at the same time that the fragments were restored into the likeness of a coherent whole, or perhaps later, they were pasted together with their restorative backing paper onto their current album pages (the watermark on the album pages shows the date 1883). And at some point subsequently, they were bound together with other album pages sporting ballad sheets—some, but not all, of the sheets also with inked numbers on their second halves—into two volumes. The books were fashioned at the hands of the late nineteenth-century bookbinder Charles Winstanley (1851Ð1934), whose shop was located, not surprisingly, in Manchester (Figure 2).
Manchester Central Library—freely serving the general public of Manchester—opened in 1934, and the binding was likely commissioned by the library around that time. Soon after the library's acquisition of the volumes, a small seven-page printed pamphlet, authored by Robert Langton, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, was inserted at the front of the first volume; it mostly focuses on a sampling of ballad woodcuts and the dates of some of the ballads in the volumes. Probably around this same time a librarian also added, in faint pencil, a number in the upper right-hand corner of each album page that has a ballad sheet pasted onto it (the numbers count the pages sequentially within each volume but not consecutively between the two volumes). Yet another librarian has written, more assertively in ink, though in a small hand, numerals that run consecutively between both volumes. While such multiple numbering by collectors and curators is by no means uncommon, this last additional set of numbers on the assembled ballads stands out as quite odd. They are written between one of the columns of verse printed on each half sheet (regardless of whether the sheet's two halves are cut apart and whether they belong to the same ballad) and thus record the total count of ballad halves in the volumes, running in sequence from 1 to 190. It is as if the librarian had become so unsure of which halves belonged to which ballad wholes that she or he determinedly recorded all halves of the ballad sheets as independent units. Finally, the same or yet another librarian pasted onto a blank album page at the front of each volume hand-mimeographed sheets with yet a different numerical system. Under each number is detailed the first lines of both ballad halves appearing on an album page, even when those halves are mismatched; the lists are numbered 1 through 56 for the first volume and 1 through 57 for the second.
So many hands in motion over so many hundreds of years, leaving so many marks; so many differently assembled, disassembled, and reassembled ballad parts! And we have yet even to consider closely the constituent printed pieces that made up the broadside ballads themselves as aesthetic, multimedia, and cultural artifacts. We have yet to study the extant fragment of black-letter text in the ballad half that carries our handprint, wherein the speaker expresses desire for, but more worry about, taking a wife ("Oh faine would I marry," EBBA 36094). Coincidentally, such anxiety is physically represented in the youth's inked hand blackening out much of the text's imprinted desire. We have also yet to consider the woodcut impressions, in which the arm of a "man's man"—a man in full late Tudor armor (despite the English Short Title Catalogue's, or ESTC's, dating of the ballad to c. 1635, the Caroline era)—gripping a staff of support and weaponry while at the same time extending that arm toward not just one but two look-alike "sisters"—interchangeable potential wives?—also wearing Elizabethan-period style dress. Our doubled ladies derive from a popular set of woodcuts used well into the seventeenth century; they appear more than fifty times in the Samuel Pepys ballad collection of more than 1,800 ballads alone, sometimes simply reused, and sometimes entirely recut. The wear and tear on these woodblocks in their many journeys through the press is evident in the impressions they made on the sheet: the woman in the first is missing her left eye; in the second, she's lost her signature fan (Palmer, "Cutting Through the Wormhole"). The middle finger of our inked handprint points to the first lady; the armed man looks and gestures to her as well, but his gaze also takes in her look-alike sister, and the fact that the woman's role is doubled by the two look-alike impressions apparently raises no concern for him, as if all potential wives are the same—in a word, interchangeable. Nor—and here we witness firsthand the need to inhabit ballad aesthetics and culture—does their interchangeability apparently raise concern for the audience/viewers. Or perhaps, given the popularity of the cuts, their recurrence provoked double the delight. At the same time, the well-worn woodcuts connect this ballad to a long tradition of printed ballad reassemblage that makes the pieces seem ever more promiscuous. Such loose arrangements (whether ironically unintentional or deliberate) further illustrate the speaker's anxious dilemma: I fain would marry, he tells us, but for the fear that, in marriage, "I doe my single life double: / The care of a young man" (st. 1; my emphases).
In fact, we might entertain a tripling of this young man's doubt, by way of the tune named on the ballad sheet. The tune title is prominently announced on its own line near the top of the page: "To the tune of Drive the cold Winter away." This melody, over the course of the early modern period, undergoes numerous rearrangings, reassociations, and renamings. Though the tune is in the minor mode, its renamings alone suggest a similar upbeat optimism to our sheet's version of the title. Not only can the tune, we've comfortingly heard, "Drive the cold Winter away"; its alternate namings suggest the melody can also capture an idyllic time "When Phoebus did rest" (EBBA 30024), greet the glorious past with the exuberant "All Hail to the dayes" (EBBA 33327), and capture the momentous moment when "General Monk had advanc'd himself since he came from the Tower" (EBBA 31860). Perhaps this sense of optimism associated with the tune's titlings contributed to its notable popularity, for it is cited on twelve extant broadside ballads. Of these twelve, an impressive seven specifically celebrate male good fellowship in the form of men assembled together in alehouses. Textual assertions of masculine fellowship are further witnessed by the visual dominance in these ballads of men depicted gathered around tables drinking. Such ballads would probably have been sung in a hearty, stein-swinging vein, as heard in the recording of our hand-marred ballad on Track 1 of the online Audio Companion to this book.
Is homosocial good cheer, suggested by such alehouse ballads associated with "Drive the Cold Winter Away," what our conflicted would-be lover in fact chooses over marriage by the end of this ballad? Would he have solved his indecision by forgoing the hand of marriage altogether, and blissfully hanging out with the guys at the alehouse instead, joining with them in a comfortable because noncommittal union of drink and song? The ballad, sadly, is unique, so we will never know its outcome for sure. But the tune's minor mode in voicing the cheerful words heard on Track 1 might come into play here, inviting inquiry about the sincerity of friendships that begin and end at the tavern door. Conflicted desire expressed by tune and text are multiplied by the puzzling role played by the twin-like potential wives depicted in the woodcut illustrations. Yes, the look-alike ladies would probably have been fondly familiar to consumers; but in the context of our wooer's expression of anxious uncertainty over marriage, does their duplication make them equally acceptable—or equally unacceptable? We have inherited something of a media conundrum, made all the more puzzling for early moderns and moderns alike by the ballad's unsettled history of production and transmission. Marred, cut apart, preserved paradoxically as a "whole" fragment, and subject to continual re-sortings, the ballad sheet itself undertakes the role of dividedness, conflict, and uncertainty.
How, then, can we keep track of all these diverse moving parts and yet retain some grasp of the broadside ballad's conceptual unity? How can we attend at once to the extant ballad artifacts cut apart and reassembled by consumers and curators over time, as well as to the multimedia bits and pieces that originally made up those artifacts (text, woodcuts, tunes, etc.)? The latter piecemeal making, arranged and rearranged by its producers, critically occurs at the very moment of the ballad's inception. Where can we turn to get a handle on such motley bricolage-like singularity that spontaneously mixes the attuned and dissonant, the physical and metaphorical (part as thing, part as role), as well as the historical and transhistorical (then, later, now)?
To the "New Textualism," one might well answer. Certainly, my own scholarship has been solidly situated within this field of bibliographic studies since its emergence some two decades ago out of a formalism focused on the meaning-filled "law" of the "word" (to reference the adoption of the phrase in jurisprudence to indicate "literalism" vs "intent"). The formalism of the New Textualism embraces a broader and more contextualized materiality than that alone bodied forth within a refined meaning of words. It extends to include study of the formal features of the material artifacts that situate and "contain" textuality, as well as their practical making. In the spirit of this methodology, my 2008 article (reprinted in 2010), "Remembering by Dismembering," pursues the intriguing similarities in the production, dissemination, and use of databases and book-based collections. What emerges, we see, is a complicated and reverberative webwork that bridges centuries. Scholars working within the New Textualism have most recently recovered the book and other "published" material objects as precisely subject to collage-like remaking, especially by collectors and readers. Such early modern re-creative practices are beautifully generated in Renaissance Collage (2015) by Juliet Fleming, her coeditors, and her contributors.
But despite all the exciting discoveries within this new wave of bibliographical studies, the movement cannot fully address our pressing queries. It fails on three fronts key to this study: (1) New Textualism's emphasis has been almost exclusively on the book or the compiled manuscript, to the neglect of the single printed sheet—especially if that sheet was printed for a popular, mass market. Yet broadside ballads were, after official proclamations, the most disseminated form of print in early modern England. In Tessa Watt's estimation, they were likely issued, as early as the late sixteenth century, in the millions (Cheap Print, 11)—only to soar in greater numbers by the early seventeenth century, prompting the attempted monopolizing of the market by the Ballad Partners (1624). (2) Though expanding significantly our understanding of reading into a "grammar" or "writing" of making, New Textual materialism typically includes only one other medium in addition to the textual: the visual. Broadside ballads, understood fully as multimedia, underscore the glaring absence in this approach: orality. (3) Finally, New Textual materialism has focused on consumers at one remove—usually individuals or governed groups—who act as collage-like readers or remakers of published "whole" texts. But broadside ballads, as we have seen, from the moment of their production in the print shop (and perhaps even prior, in authorship), were conceived, constituted, and passed on as assemblages of independent and continually rearrangeable fragments. They invited both physical and interpretative remakings at all procedural and temporal stages of their handling, even if those appropriating them might have their own private or public agendas, or both. Such expansive tactical making and remaking, which often continues into curation, goes far beyond the bibliographic focus of New Textualism.
Once we have expanded our understanding of piecemeal ballad fashioning to include the many contextualized stages or phases of participants in the practice, we might further turn for a methodological helping hand to "historical phenomenology." This approach—brilliantly espoused by Bruce R. Smith in Phenomenal Shakespeare—foregrounds human subjects in all their plurality as agents. But they are also understood to be experiential extensions of their material and cultural surroundings. Seen through the lens of historical phenomenology and looking beyond the dramatic stage, we recognize that the human hand, like the self-conscious human subject of which it is an extension, is willy-nilly a part of broadside ballad collage work. Smith thus aptly offers as frontispiece to his book the picture of a person touching his own hand as if it were an object at one remove (the hand playfully stamped with yet another objectified image: Shakespeare's Folio portrait; Figure 3).
This frontispiece is Smith's launching point into an argument substantiating our ability to feel emotions akin to those performed by early modern actors on the stage and, furthermore—though denuded of the enlivened affect of performance—as narratively expressed through meaning-filled words printed on Shakespeare's folio pages. As much a historicized cognitive-science approach as a historical phenomenology (but who would change such a wonderfully evocative title as Phenomenal Shakespeare?), Smith's book often gestures to cognitive studies. In a recent article on ballads and dance ("'Ball'"), he further references Guillemette Bolens's The Style of Gestures: Embodiment and Cognition in Literary Narrative. Bolens opens this book with a discussion of another work of visual art, which calls attention to the human hand: Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin's oil painting of L'enfant au toton: August Gabriel Godefroy (1738; Figure 4). This arrestingly charming portrait features an aristocratic boy with right hand poised as he intently concentrates on his spinning toy top. Though the boy stands at a writing table, he has apparently pushed the scholarly books and writing implements off to the side to clear space for play with his toy (so much for Sir Philip Sidney's maxim to teach and delight). We see the boy's hand positioned on the table in the afterlife grip of a motion to initiate the spinning; we also see the top twirling away, though on a bit of a tilt, suggesting it might soon need another spin. The gesture of the boy's poised hand captures simultaneously his having spun and being ready to re-spin the top. Like an oil-painting snapshot of the boy's interaction with his environment, the picture movingly captures the essence of historical phenomenology at play, which involves an interaction of the whole person. With slightly upturned lips—the hint of a smile—and eyes fixed on the spinning top, the boy appears both cognitively and affectively fully engaged with his toy. His poised hand especially catches our eye, and, like a manicule, points to the painting's pervasive sense of ready-to-act fixation. In this seized-upon moment, the hand and the subject that it encapsulates are simultaneously active upon and reactive to an object (the toy top). As viewers, we engage with the painting in a similar way. We look upon an objectified moment of "forever" stasis that is at the same time cognitively and emotively charged as a stasis-in-action. The painting works upon us as if we were ourselves reactive objects, spinning us into a delightful anticipation sympathetic with that of the boy pictured. In Bolens's words, we experience a "type of perceptual, sensorial, and narratorial participation"—"a kinesic intelligence"—(4; see also Banks, Kinesic Intelligence).
Great advances have been made recently in cognitive science to "get in touch" not only with the subject (as cognitive, affective, and reflexive individual) and with inter-subjects (selves necessarily interacting with other selves) but also with inter-subjects-objects (selves as influencing but also influenced by their material surroundings, including embodied things). Such multiple modes of being and action are quintessentially applied in the recent work of "distributed cognition," a field expertly historicized by Evelyn B. Tribble in her Cognition in the Globe. Making related strides are practitioners of affect theory, such as Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth (Affect Theory Reader) as well as Patricia Ticineto Clough and Jean Halley (Affective Turn). Together, such studies from the wide (and, as Tribble underscores, by no means homogeneous) field of cognition offer opportune helping hands for those of us trying to understand what we feelingly see when we look at a 400-year-old handprint caught in motion on a printed page—a hand that was in motion before making the impression, at the time of making it, and transhistorically afterward, when it became an inorganic part of a continually moving assemblage and reassemblage of aesthetic material media and cultural exchanges, even after reaching its last collected resting state in a library's bound album.
While both textual materialism and historical phenomenology offer handy tools in advancing this study, neither fully equips me to tackle the complex matrix of queries I've posed. Neither quite meets this book's imperative that we stand back and take a larger survey of the cultural aesthetics involved in the practice of making and consuming broadside ballads. I want to touch the living printing hand, yes, as well as those other hands in motion which appropriated and reappropriated broadside ballads for their own purposes. But I also want to touch the printed hand and the other assembled aesthetic handiworks made, evoked, and used in the production and dissemination of broadside ballads. Or, to put it another way, I am especially invested in the historical and cultural aesthetics of the ballad-as-experience. Experiential ballad aesthetics includes appreciation of the made objects as well as of the set of processes involved in their making (pressed sheets of paper, voiced narratives and dialogues, carved woodblocks of scenes and portraits, fictional identities, and collective memories, to name only a few). An experiential ballad aesthetic also requires understanding the multimodal group of individual and collaborative roles involved in such makings (author, printer, hawker, singer, auditor, reader, collector). Experiential ballad aesthetics is, furthermore, generative and protean, capable of seemingly endless shifts and renewals. Constantly moving with the political and social times, it thrives and can be appreciated today much as in early modern England: as text, song, art, and cultural record.
The ambitious transhistorical goals of this book are, of course, doomed to failure. How can we fully inhabit the early modern felt experience of the printed hand (or the other media assembled on and invoked by the broadside ballad sheet)? How can we capture from 400 years of distance the processes of early modern printing or making hands, or the tactics of assembled publics that produced and consumed such artifacts, reshaping them, however on the fly, to their own ends? For that matter, how can we see or sing through early modern eyes and voices? We can't. But we might well capture something of those lived experiences at one remove. We might in a multimedia, close-up, and hands-on way bring the facets of ballad culture alive to the modern scholar, student, and general public. Such felt liveliness lies at the heart of appreciating the early modern broadside ballad experience. What I am suggesting, then, is something along the lines of Smith's notion of sympathetic "analogy" with the past. As Smith conceives this term, we cannot and should not attempt to capture an experience of "is" or "was" but rather an approximation or "like" experience with the past (Phenomenal Shakespeare, 170Ð71). With such cautionary caveats in hand, this book, like Menelaus, wrestles with the Protean early modern English broadside ballad in order to achieve a cultural appreciation that speaks a truth, if not the truth. What we discover in such intimate grappling with early modern ballads is multidimensional artifacts that convey multifarious possibilities for assemblage and reassemblage, including improvisational, tactical purposing and repurposing toward momentary publics as part of the early modern and modern lived ballad experience.
In making this statement, I gesture toward the need for a capacious enough theory, or, rather, a complement of theories, which will allow maneuverability along a spectrum of the micro- to the macro-, thing to person, individual to collective, subject to public, tactical to strategic, making to made. Only by moving between these scales, forms, and practices can we begin to fathom the curious mobility of the ballad and its parts, across its early modern contexts and across time. >
The Play of Lego Blocks and Ballad Bits Ahead
I shall address in more depth in Chapter 1 the theoretical aids I prominently draw upon, beyond textual materialism and historical phenomenology, to pursue this goal. What I offer here is meant as an outline of the component bits and pieces of those theories and of the individual chapters that make up this book.
After discussing the critical history of broadside ballads and the multiple key ways in which they are "moving," I will turn first for assistance in advancing my study of broadside ballads to assemblage theory as articulated in Manuel DeLanda's A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity. The concept of "assemblage," versus "assimilation" or "integration," as articulated by DeLanda, will be instrumental to our understanding of the nature of ballad parts. DeLanda's term, of course, is itself an appropriation and reassemblage of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's theory by the same name, articulated foremost in A Thousand Plateaus, wherein wholes are characterized by what DeLanda emphatically summarizes as "relations of exteriority" (10). By this phrase, DeLanda captures in a nutshell the philosophers' vision that things (a category that, for both them and DeLanda, also includes persons) are not innately related in a fixed or determined way—that is, they are not connected through what DeLanda refers to, with much more negative emphasis, as "relations of interiority" (9). Objects and living things, Deleuze and Guattari insist, are independent; they retain their singularity even when extracted from one whole and plugged into another. DeLanda's systematic theory of assemblage (which I will qualify with the view to achieving a more enlivened and thus necessarily more messy psychological, social, and historical contextualization) will be especially helpful as we begin this study. It will give us a stable framework for reevaluating the moving roles played by the, perhaps paradoxically, independent and at the same time interconnected media in broadside artifacts, as well as by the various subjects intermingled in their assembled production and consumption.
Assemblage theory, incisive as it is, however, can tend toward the taxonomic. Thus, we will also need to add a complementary approach, one that will allow us to think more flexibly about the experiential practice of ephemera. We need a mobile and adaptable theory of on-the-fly use, and for that I unabashedly appropriate and redirect to my own ends the theory of "tactical media," first advocated by David Garcia and Geert Lovink in 1996 ("ABC of Tactical Media"). I perversely invoke tactical media to talk not so much about media, which I have already dubbed multiply moving, but about tactics. In doing so, I draw on the same core of inspiration as the activists of tactical media; that is, Michel de Certeau's theory of improvisational maneuvers (as opposed to predetermined strategies), which he sees playing out within the context of lived everyday experiences and conventions (Practice of Everyday Life). The idea of "tactics" as quintessentially extemporaneous and mobile presents us with a crafty inroad to understanding occasional, provisional publics, which both produce and consume the broadside ballad's moving multimedia.
To this cause of impromptu making (at both the production and consumption ends, in small and large public contexts, and arising from historically specific as well as transhistorical cultures), I bring my knowledge of the project "Making Publics: Media, Markets, and Association in Early Modern Europe," a multiyear collaboration based at McGill University under the direction of Paul Yachnin (2005Ð10). The Making Publics (MaPs) team over this time engaged in bouts of lively contestation, to be sure. As in playing with Lego blocks, each of us sought to put together individual but variously interconnecting pieces of early modern culture to make something we individually imagined as a whole thing—the concept of "publics"; but each of us, we discovered, had a different mental picture of what the final conceptual product should or would look like. We also continually faced the reality that some pieces in our game of concept building seemed to fit together perfectly, but others stubbornly resisted that satisfactory "snap" of coming together, forcing us to reject that assemblage and to alter the shape of our imagined "whole." Still, we collaboratively produced some hard-won consensus that allowed us to fit enough pieces together confidently to identify an idea (if not the only idea) of "plural publics." Such publics, as we imagined them to be constructed, are more capacious in structure and function than DeLanda's schematic and materialist notion of assemblages-within-assemblages. By MaPs's collective definition, publics are plural, open, and fluid. Importantly, they are also always tactical. That is, in forming publics, early moderns assembled in loose, improvisational, and temporary associations to a particular end or goal. A final essential feature: Because they are necessarily plural (unlike the famed Habermasian "public" or the familiar "American public" or even "general public"), early modern publics are continually in the making (and, furthermore, in the unmaking). To pursue our Lego-block metaphor full circle: A completely constructed Object (read also Concept or Idea) can be easily disassembled or can simply fall apart.
Drawing on all the theoretical helping hands delineated above, then, we will set out in this book to catch something of the multifaceted, aesthetically rich lived experience—if only ever experienced partially, then and now—of a contemporary's imagined "whole" in the formation of early modern ballad publics. "Imagined," I argue, reads as true for contemporaries of the past as of today. Early moderns, like we modern critics who seek to understand them and their culture, were engaged in a cultural practice analogous to Lego-block play when it came to encountering and making sense of the bits and pieces of ballad media. From extemporaneously picked-up blocks of texts, illustrations, and tunes—as independent in their exchangeability or incompatibility as Lego blocks—early moderns sought to give form to their imagined whole (call it their personal understanding of the ballad experience or, more broadly, of ballad culture or of ballad publics). As with the members of the MaPs group, they particularly would have sought out those ballad parts that seemed most compatible—that is, the best fit—toward building their individual ideation. But regardless of whether the ballad media parts accommodated each other, by virtue of their uniqueness or ill-fittedness in the play of combining them, they would have caused deviations in a player's preconceived end product or form. Form, we discovered, is a process; it is not an end. Putting ballad parts together created (and still creates today) new possibilities, orientations, and imaginations. Any piece that snaps satisfyingly into another piece (or not) triggers improvisational alterations and reconceptualizations to the player's guiding imagined whole. Assembling ballad parts, like playing with Lego blocks, is full of satisfaction, frustration, and surprises.
Finally, foundational to this study or, rather, to its Spenserian Garden of Adonis—the verdantly generative matrix of my book's material—is the NEH-funded online English Broadside Ballad Archive (EBBA), cited above, which I founded in 2003 at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and still direct. I am especially indebted to EBBA's music tool, informally named "Minstrel," developed by Erik Bell and showcased in the subsequent chapters of this book in its beta version. Minstrel functions as a kind of translation or bridge between the different demands of two modes of emphasis at play in any song; that is, poetic stress and musical stress. Minstrel bridges these modes by providing a note-to-text transcription of each ballad's sung lyrics, which unfolds on the tracks of the Audio Companion to this book. Through Minstrel, users can at once hear the musical stresses on the text and also see how the sung words are being matched to the tune, syllable by syllable. Minstrel also provides a purely instrumental, electronic track for each ballad (again, with underlaid and stressed words) through its fiddle audio component. This added feature slows the tempo of the sung lyrics for closer study. Minstrel, then, facilitates our movement beyond broad and relatively abstract discussions of a tune's notation, or themes associated with it, or the general affect of its soundscape toward a detailed critical appreciation of the often complex interchange between poetry and melody. Here again we encounter something of a Lego-block experience at play. Any generalized tune or notation at first separated from a particular poetic text, but now named as the tune of a specific ballad, necessitates that the singer try to fit the blocks of notes and distinctive text together. At the same time, the Lego-block practice of assembling tune and text into a unity necessarily morphs, in surprising and often pleasing ways, from any fixed ideation of the tune the singer might hold. And we cannot forget the eye-catching blocks of illustrations and ornament. Images as well as text and tune(s) are prominently displayed together on the early modern ballad sheet, demanding to be treated—that is, meaningfully assembled—on an equal playing field.
Minstrel is but one (perhaps one of the most important) tools that EBBA offers this project, allowing us to grapple with the protean multimedia broadside ballad as a playfully lived aesthetic experience. In fact, though, the archive's mark can be seen everywhere in this book. It is indelible, so I naturally begin and end Part I with a discussion of digital archives and their interrelation with rare books (or, in our case, sheets of broadside ballads). We find that a well-built digital archive can offer not only necessary access to but also multiple viewings and hearings of printed ballads. Furthermore, it can do so in such a way that allows a user to approximate something of the experience of average early moderns in their everyday encounters with these artifacts. We can approach the past's ballad culture as an improvisational whole made of assemblages of mobile component blocks, both intentionally and fortuitously constructed by producer and consumer alike. However, despite all that we can gain through the compendium of early modern ballad material compiled in the EBBA archive, fortified with an expansive, multimedia methodology of putting together mobile blocks of textual, visual, and oral units, my foundational thesis in this book is that a whole early modern ballad experience—both then and now—can be achieved only in the making or only partially.
The Broadside Ballad in Early Modern England, putting this theory into practice, is itself organized as an assemblage of case studies. Its units are as follows: first, an in-depth introduction to set in play the book's complex of mobile ideas and critical background; then, four parts in which the book's ideas are variously assembled and reassembled many times, creating a reading practice akin to searching the web and gathering together associated results, or what we often call (in resonantly metaphorical language) "hits." Within each of the reassemblable bits that make up the parts of this book, we will hear some of these hits resound again and again; even so, my selections are intended to function more like a customizable playlist than like a radio station you might surf. I have drawn an arc through an arrangement of songs, but it is by no means the only arc, and these are by no means the only available tracks. Listen to the whole lineup, if you like—or skip through; read and remake the assemblage in proportion to your own associational authority.
To delineate how the early modern experience of the broadside ballad (and modern access to it) would have been a mobile and only partial whole, I begin Part I, in Chapter 2, tracking the fragmentary assembling and disassembling of two unique but not atypical extant editions (published relatively close together) of one broadside ballad, "Mock-Beggar Hall." As we encounter Lego-like pieces of texts, illustrations, and tunes, in moving from one edition of the ballad to the next, possible meanings multiply and fracture. Chapter 3 includes, in addition, potential associative hits that contemporaries could easily and extemporaneously have made with "like" ballads to these two editions of the "same" ballad. As we will discover, such potential hits are abundant because of the impromptu, patchwork, and mobile nature of ballad production, dissemination, and reception.
In Part II, I turn to the collectors of such moving artifacts. I open Chapter 4 with a discussion of collectors' varying attitudes and practices toward collecting in the early modern period. Then, I focus on what DeLanda would call the "loose assemblage" or "network" of ballad collectors: persons of around the same generation in the seventeenth century who sought out specifically black-letter broadside ballads. What, one wonders, motivated their collecting practices? To what extent did this group, whose members knew each other and formed networks of connectedness (almost, but not quite, we shall see, actual publics), advance a specific "cause"? We find that these particular ballad gatherers shared what appears to be an intentional but also what one might dub a subliminal or visceral attraction to the visual features of the printed ballad—especially to its ornamental woodcuts and decorative black-letter typeface. At the same time, as we witness in Chapter 5, they saw themselves as embarked on an intellectual mission to record the history of calligraphy and its fraught intersection with print, especially with black-letter typeface. Our broadside ballad collectors formed a network in the service of an emotive, intellectual, and historical cause of preserving black letter (in script and in print) even as that deep-rooted and much-cherished typeface receded and transformed before their very eyes into another creature entirely: white letter or roman type (and its kin, italic script and type).
Part III focuses on one black-letter broadside ballad collector, Samuel Pepys, who stands out because he not only assembled the largest collection of pre-1701 black-letter broadside ballads but also determinedly moved beyond circles of collecting networks in an impulsive and at times Machiavellian determination to participate in and create ballad publics. Pepys, indeed, was in many ways the epitome of the tactical consumers who surrounded him, as we shall see through his Diary (1660Ð69) and collecting practices. Of course, for Pepys, his two main foci in his Diary were gender and politics; they were the end goals to which most of his Lego-block assemblage of ballad parts was directed. Following his line of thinking, then, Chapters 6 and 7 view his engagement with and making of ballad publics specifically through the lenses of gender and politics, respectively.
Part IV, the final part of this study, offers—in Chapter 8—what we have been missing so far: an extensive and expansive study of one ballad as its assemblable parts build toward versions of an objectionable story, which nevertheless (or because of its horror) gripped audiences across genders and classes in its own time and for at least another 150 years afterward. The ballad, which I cite for brevity as "The Lady and the Blackamoor," was extremely popular and sensational—with no fewer than thirty-seven extant editions up to 1701 alone. By narrowing in on this plethora of variant singularity, I hope to show the ballad genre's ability to multiply move audiences both diachronically within a complex society and synchronically (across large expanses of time and space). In support of the latter point, the chapter opens with a 1789 Georgia Gazette's news story of a massacre of a lord's family by his black slave. What we uncover, however, is that this eighteenth-century New World newspaper report is in fact a retelling or recollection of a sixteenth-century ballad, licensed in 1569Ð70 in the Stationers' Register in London. This ballad, in its early evolution, tells a near identical story to that in the Georgia Gazette but to very different audiences and ends.
In the Conclusion, I open our perspective wider in a different way to look, in a variation on Star Trek language, where no woman has gone. That is, I consider another kind of "trans" movement, this time across genres, with a specific focus on the stage, and call into question a long-standing assumption made by modern critics: that broadside ballads are performative in the same way as (but always somehow "lesser" than) plays. Not quite, I argue. The broadside ballad, in all its multiply moving facets, offered the potential for more intensive, expansive, and inclusive performative interactions with publics—and indeed more unpredictable and tactical interactions with publics—than did sited stage drama. Nearly every play of the period quotes snatches of ballads; likewise, plays usually closed with a dialogue ballad, perhaps accompanied by instrumentalists and engaging the much-loved kinesic medium of dance—that is, a jig. It is thus not surprising that The Winter's Tale—one of Shakespeare's last plays and one of his greatest experiments in the nature of drama—almost obsessively foregrounds broadside ballads. Not only does this play feature the rogue/hawker/ballad seller, Autolycus, it fills act 4 in Bohemia with an expansive social and multimedia ballad-like experience of festivity; furthermore, even when the play returns us to the moribund court of Sicilia, it incessantly evokes scattered fragments of the earlier fully felt broadside ballad experience. Text, illustration, and tune are all as omnipresent in these last scenes as they were early on, but they are so disconnected and parceled off as to endanger the play's success. In some circles, it is anathema to surmise that even one of Shakespeare's plays "failed," even if we posit that the playwright deliberately set the play on an impossible course; to call the broadside ballad experience a roaring success (especially by comparison with the entire staged drama) would be almost unspeakable. But of such I speak.
So, like a ballad returning again and again to a familiar refrain, I end my study where I began, gesturing toward the sort of intersubjective frisson that is felt when we, unexpectedly, find some imaginative "imagined product." In support of my admittedly ambitious, expansive, and at times even spiritedly conjectural study, I can only appropriate the words of Paulina in The Winter's Tale and ask that "You do awake your faith." I ask not for a divinely inspired faith in my ability to bring one static medium, such as a statue, to life, but for a more human and humane faith in our shared capabilities (experiential and critical) to enliven. In these pages, I offer one collection of reassemblable ballad and drama Lego blocks, complete with my own carefully drawn instructions for what might be built, which are themselves based on my step-by-step study of what early moderns seem to have made of these many multimedia pieces as they associated and reassociated tunes, texts, and images. I hold out, in sum, the possibility that we can indeed experience something of the broadside ballads' almost infinite tactical capacity to "move," both in whole and in part.