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Harris Fletcher. Milton and Yosippon...
AN ANALYTICAL INDEX TO THE BALLAD-ENTRIES IN THE REGISTERS OF THE COMPANY OF STATIONERS OF LONDON
BY HYDER E. ROLLINS
Hardly anything is more fascinating than to pick up a volume of the printed Transcripts of the Stationers' Registers and to skim through the pages to see what our forefathers read. Here in a nutshell, as it were, the intellectual life of the sixteenth and seventeenth-century Englishman is revealed. And if the great names of English literature, like those of Spenser, Jonson, and Shakespeare, are not completely represented, this defect is partially atoned for by the very large number of entries of popular literature, especially of ballads and chap-books. During the first twenty or thirty years in which the Registers were kept, ballads indeed made up the bulk of the entries; until 1640 they occupied perhaps greater space than books or plays. But from 1640 to 1655, thanks to civil war and restrictive laws, almost no ballads were registered at Stationers' Hall. A similar gap appears from 1656 (when some 165 ballads were entered) to 1675 (when some 175 were entered); and from 1676 to 1708/9-the date at which the Registers were discontinued -ballad-entries were rarely made.
It has long amused me to skim through these entries and to attempt to identify them.1 The results of this amusement (which,
1 Something of the sort was attempted for the years 1557-95 by J. P. Collier in his Extracts and in Notes and Queries (2nd S., XII; 3rd S., I-III); but his work is so honeycombed with misstatements, forgery, and vague references as to be of little help. In my indexes, however, I have given full credit to Collier wherever such credit is deserved. A considerable number of the ballad-entries are listed in Hazlitt's various bibliographical works