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MS Am 2349

Child, Francis James, 1825-1896. Francis James Child English and Scottish popular ballad research materials, 1849-1914: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard College Library


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© 2004 The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Last updated 2016 June 20

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
Location: f, pf
Call No.: MS Am 2349
Creator: Child, Francis James, 1825-1896.
Title: Francis James Child English and Scottish popular ballad research materials,
Date(s): 1849-1914.
Quantity: 7 linear feet (33 volumes, 1 portfolio box)
Abstract: Correspondence and papers, collected by American philologist and Harvard professor Francis James Child for his The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882-1898), and organized after his death by his protégé, George Lyman Kittredge.

Processing Information:

After Francis James Child's death in 1896, these materials were organized, described, and mounted into scrapbooks, by Harvard professor George Lyman Kittredge.

Acquisition Information:

Bequest of Francis James Child; received: 1914 November 10.
Originally reclassified from MS Am 590 to 25241.47F*. Recataloged in 2004 from 25241.47F* to MS Am 2349.

Access Restrictions:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Use Restrictions:

RESTRICTED: Condition of these materials is fragile. Photocopying is not permitted.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Francis James Child English and Scottish Popular Ballad Research Materials, 1849-1914 (MS Am 2349). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Historical Note

Francis James Child (1825-1896) was born in Boston, the third of eight children of Joseph Child and his wife Mary James Child. He was a graduate of Harvard College, A.B. 1846. After graduation he remained at Cambridge as tutor in mathematics (1846-1848) and later in history and political economy (1848-1849). From 1849 to 1851 he studied philosophy, the classics, and Germanic philology at the University of Göttingen. Upon his return to Harvard he became the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory. In 1860, he married Elizabeth Ellery Sedgwick, daughter of Robert Sedgwick of New York, and they had three daughters and one son.
In 1876, Child was made professor of English and devoted himself thereafter to the teaching and study of literature. His chief works were on Spenser and Chaucer, and he is best known for his research into the history of English and Scottish ballads, first publishing English and Scottish Ballads (8 vols., 1857-1858), and later, his edition of 305 distinct English and Scottish ballads and their textual variants, English and Scottish Popular Ballads (5 vols., originally issued in 10 parts, 1882-1898). Ballad texts for this edition were culled from manuscript and printed materials extant at the end of the 19th century. This published text was planned "to include every obtainable version of every extant English or Scottish ballad, with the fullest possible discussion of related songs or stories in the popular literature of all nations." The tenth part was virtually complete, except for a general introduction to the whole work, at the time of Child's death in 1896.
At his death, Child left behind a great wealth of manuscripts, copies, letters, and other material pertaining to his study of ballads. George Lyman Kittredge (Harvard A.B. 1882), who was Child's former student, was Child's successor to the Boylston Professorship, and later was Harvard's first Gurney Professor of English (1917). It was Kittredge who spent hundreds of hours organizing this material which he referred to as the "Child MSS" or "Child Manuscripts." The 33 volumes described in this finding aid are the organized product of Kittredge's work, and reflect the order which he imposed upon it. It was Kittredge, also, who completed the last volume of Child's ballad compendium and saw it through to publication. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads is now said to be the publication that established the groundwork for English-speaking ballad scholarship in the 20th century.


Organized as:

Vol I - XIX: Rejected pieces and related correspondence (contents in front of each volume)

Vol XXI - XXX: Child ballads and correspondence

Vol XXXIII: Child manuscript indexes:

Scope and Content

The materials included in these volumes are primarily concerned with Francis James Child's study of the historical development of English and Scottish ballad text, though there are some materials relating to ballads of other geographical regions, and to his other research interests such as Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower. There are also materials concerning his early study in Germany at the University of Göttingern and the University of Berlin.
The material here reflects both the order and the content of Child's published edition: The English and Scottish popular ballads. George Lyman Kittredge notes about this set that: "This edition contains 305 distinct ballads, with many additional texts printed in full, giving every extant version of every ballad. Each ballad has an introduction dealing with the history and bibliography of the piece, and containing a full account of parallels in foreign languages, and, in general, of the diffusion of the story, with other pertinent matter. There are also exhaustive collations, elaborate bibliographies, an index of published ballad airs, a collection of tunes, - and, in a word, all the apparatus necessary for the study of this kind of literature."
These collected supporting materials include autograph manuscripts of Francis James Child and George Lyman Kittredge and many others, bibliographies, clippings, letters, lists, musical notation for ballads, notes, reviews, indexes, postcards, printed materials, scrapbooks, subscription and mailing lists, transcriptions of ballad text, and translations. Some of the prominent names associated with this collection are: Peter Buchan, Frederick James Furnivall, Sven Grundtvig, Jan Kartowicz, William Macmath, William Motherwell, Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, and many others.


Publications by Francis James Child related to this manuscript material are: Child, Francis James, ed. English and Scottish ballads. Boston: Little, Brown and company, 1857. Child, Francis James, ed. English and Scottish popular ballads. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1882-1898. 10 parts in 5 volumes. Child, Francis James. English and Scottish popular ballads; edited from the collection of Francis James Child by Helen Child Sargent and George Lyman Kittredge. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and company, 1904.

Container List


The following indexes are transcribed from item (33) above. These indexes were compiled by George Lyman Kittredge.
How to use these indexes: Entries are in one of two formats:
E.g., item listed "Aug. 16, 1883; 32(2)" would be found in Vol. XXII. Volume numbers must be included in requests for retrevial purposes.

1. Index to the general contents

2. Index to names of writers of letters and contributors