ABSTRACT

THE earliest forms of printed popular literature were the broad-

side, the jestbook, narratives - usually but not always based upon themes from medieval romance - and, finally, almanacs.

A wide variety of subject matter is covered by the term' broadside'. Besides the ballads and songs with which it is chiefly associated, broadside publishing also comprised proclamations, religious documents, handbills, advertisements. What these had in common was the fact that they were printed upon one side only of a flimsy sheet of paper. A superb collection of these publications, ranging over more than three centuries, is owned by the Society of Antiquaries, who published a catalogue of their holdings in 1866.2 The earliest item is an 'Indulgence granted by Our Holy Father Pope Leo that nowe is to all such as shall contribute money towards the ransom of Sir John Pyllet, Knyght of the Holy Sepulchre of Christ, who, coming from Jerusalem, was taken prisoner by the Mauris and Infidels ... ' Undated, this broadside was probably issued in 1513, the year in which Pope Leo X, 'Our Holy Father ... that nowe is', was elected.