David Kleiman founded Heritage Muse Publishing, Inc. in 2001 with a vision. He would create digital versions of classic texts, incorporating images, music, research aids, and supplemental essays to enhance understanding of these seminal works for students, scholars, & enthusiasts.
David was very active in the folk music community and loved singing the old ballads. His background included computer technology and programming, and creating a digital project seemed a good fit for his skills. He decided that the first project would be a 21st century edition of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, by Francis James Child. Child's wanted to investigate the origins of English literature, and used the ballad texts from all times, cultures, and languages to reveal patterns, tropes, and stories that informed much of English literature.
Together with a group of investors who formed ESPB Publishing L.P., he began a two-year endeavor to create a product that would revolutionize the world of ballad scholarship.
His idea and the technology he chose were radical at the time. Project Gutenberg, founded in 1971, was offering about 5,000 ebooks in plain text in 2003, but very few in the area of music. David had to invent and combine existing technology to accomplish his goals. He selected Adobe Acrobat as the publishing format and a CD-rom as a distribution method. He wanted the product to be interactive, allowing the reader to navigate Child's 10-volume text seamlessly and quickly. He wanted to make it easier for readers to find words and phrases throughout the text with a few clicks of the mouse. He wanted to give users the ability to hear the ballad tunes, not just read about the words. He wanted scholars to be able to compare citations from the printed volumes with the digital version and decided to make the new edition identical to the original in pagination and layout. Above all, he wanted to keep the study and performance of traditional ballads vibrant and alive by engaging modern users.
To supplement the text, he created a music CD that showcased today's artists performing the old ballads. The product was sold as a two-CD set with Child's full text, introductory essays, with new indexes and maps placing the ballads in their real-world context. Artists including Martin Carthy, Tom Speirs, Larking Bryant, Anita Best and Lou Killen recorded new versions of their favorite ballads in their unique styles for the CD (available separately), and produced extensive commentary on the performance origins of each tune.
In 2003, he launched the flagship product English & Scottish Ballads (digital edition) as the first in the Heritage Collectors™ series of classic ballad titles. Souces cited by Professor Child including the works of James Maidment, Joseph Ritson, George Kinloch, Cecil Sharpe, William Alligham and Peter Buchan became part of the "Ballad Bookshelf" and were released between 2004 and 2006, all using the features of ESPB that reviewers raved about. David and his team began work on additional titles, including those of Sir Walter Scott, Sir James Balfour, and William Aytoun. To round out the bookshelf, he sought publishing permission for works still under copyright protection, including The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads by Bertrand Bronson and Traditional American Folksongs from the Anne & Frank Warner Collection.
Tragically, David died in 2014 from a rare disease and never saw his achievement reach the wide audience he envisioned. For five years, the project was suspended. In 2019, his widow Kate Kleiman decided it was time to resurrect ESPB and the Ballad Bookshelf via web distribution and by subscription. Her company, Sheridan Street Hosting LLC created Heritage Muse Publishing Publishing™ to revise and distribute his project. This site is the result.
Although the Child Ballads and many of the other texts are now available in digital form for free on the internet, the features and enhancements David created still the product particularly appealing to 21st-century users and are well-worth the small investment.