Broadside Ballads, CFPR, UWE Bristol

by Angela


Now seems to be the perfect time for catching up on all those Blog Posts I meant to write but haven’t got round to. I have been doing  CPD Courses at CFPR since 2006 (Centre for Fine Print Research, UWE, Bristol).  I try to do one every year since completing my MA there (Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking) but have missed out once or twice.  Last year I didn’t manage to get there, so this was the last one I did in 2018.

Here is the description from the UWE Website:

Broadside Ballads were published during the sixteenth and up to the nineteenth centuries. They were a single sheet of printed matter consisting of type and woodcut images. This popular print explored all manner of subject matter including love, religion, drinking-songs, legends, and current events of the day such as disasters, political events and signs, wonders and prodigies.

The Course was led by Stephen Fowler, who gave us an introduction to Broadside Ballads and Chapbooks.  Stephen always seems to have a great selection of inspirational Books to work from including (on this occasion), Chapbooks of the Eighteenth Century by John Ashton, Banbury Chapbooks & Nursery Toy Book Literature of the 18th and 19th Centuries by Edwin Pearson and Murder & Witchcraft in England, 1550-1640 by Joseph H Marshburn (all of which are now out of print).

We each chose a Ballad to work from and created images and carved rubber stamps to go with the Ballad.  We printed an edition of our chosen Ballad (A3 size) and then we exchanged Prints – so everyone had a copy of all the Ballads Printed (top picture). We managed to do a lot in a One Day Course and it was lovely to have a printed edition of all the Ballads.

Stephen also showed us a technique for Printing with Foam which will be very complimentary to Rubber Stamp Printing.  Rubber Stamps are quite small so it will be very useful if I need to print a larger simple image  – I used it to print the Tree in my Ballad (I chose a Ballad called the Carrion Crow). This would save using a large chunk of Speedy Carve which is a lot more expensive than Foam.

Hand Carved Crow Rubber Stamp

I had never heard of Broadside Ballads so did a lot of research beforehand.  There are some wonderful resources with lyrics and pictures from the ballads.  There is a very large collection on the English Broadside Ballad Archive at the University of California.  My favourite ballads (including images and text) are the ones about Witches – so much so that I eventually bought both these Books.

I love the descriptions of the Witches. This is an extract from a Ballad called Damnable Practises (which I assume inspired the title of the book above) about the Lincolnshire Witches dated 1619 :

And likewise that her Mother was,
a woman full of wrath,
A swearing and blaspheming wretch,
forespeaking sodaine death:
And how that neighbours in her lookes,
malitious signes did see:
And some affirm’d she dealt with Sprits,
and so a Witch might be.

This lead to the inspiration for the Mother Shipton Lino Print  that I made at The Art Workshop (Cardiff) last year – I can see more Witches appearing in my Artwork. I found the images in some of the  Medieval Broadside Ballads very inspirational and as mentioned in my post about Redesigning The Medieval Book the simplistic drawing and limited colour palette is very reminiscent of Rubber Stamp Printing.  I also loved the Blackletter Typeface used in the Medieval Ballads. A lot of them are printed from Woodcuts and I really admire the skill in cutting this Typeface in wood – I know how difficult it was to carve in the more forgiving medium of Rubber Stamps – I can’t imagine carving it in Wood.

You can see some of these wonderful images here –  English Broadside Ballad Archive and Courses at CFPR, UWE Bristol here.

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