“The topography of traditional ballads frequently presents difficulties, both because it is liable to be changed, wholly, or, what is more embarrassing, partially, to suit a locality to which a ballad has been transported, and again because unfamiliar names, when not exchanged, are exposed to corruption. Some of the places, also, have not a dignity which entitles them to notice in gazetteers.”
- F.J. Child, IV:7, 156.
Many of the ballads, whether historical or fantastic, make reference to countries, counties, parishes, baronies, earldoms, dukedoms, cities, towns, hamlets, manors, castles, churches, battlefields, estates, and farms and to geographic features such as rivers, lakes, hills, or dales.
While we can be fairly certain of such names as Scotland, France, London, or Edinburgh, it must be remembered that place names in ballads were and are subject to being changed by the usual vagaries of oral transmission, either through misunderstanding or by intent. Ballad-singers would routinely insert local place names to make the ballad of more interest to their immediate listeners. Also, place names and borders have changed often (and confusingly) through the centuries. Although Professor Child includes extensive insights as to the locations mentioned in the ballad lyrics in his notes, no finding aid was included to assist his readers. This digital edition includes a set of eleven maps and a Place Names Index that connects the maps with the ballad texts.
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (digital edition) maps are marked with place names and locations mentioned in the ballad lyrics. To avoid confusion with older place names and issues of linguistic concern (Scots dialect/Gaelic vs English, or Old/Middle English vs modern English) modern spellings have been used. Spelling priorities have been assigned as follows:
- The New York Times Atlas of the World(1978)
- Ordnance Survey of the United Kingdom
- Professor Child’s notes
Place Names Index
The Place Names Index (PNI) in this edition was carefully compiled from several readings of the ballad lyrics including all versions of main text, Additions and Corrections, and fragments as found in the notes. The PNI is not a comprehensive reference for locations that are mentioned in the notes but that were excluded from the actual ballad texts. Only some of these place names have been included.
All references to all locations found in the stanzas are included herein whether real, fictional, or otherwise unidentifiable. Where possible, place names have been traced to their modern equivalents. Variant spellings found in the lyrics have their own entry and are cross-referenced under the modern name. For more information, including a guide to Status and Usage symbols please see the introduction to the Place Names Index. Several terms and concepts relating to the ballad texts or found in Professor Child’s notes have been simply defined for the contemporary student. Links can be found between the PNI, the Lexicon and the Glossary. A typical entry can be read as follows: