English: The courtyard of the Bodelian Library...

English: The courtyard of the Bodelian Library, looking out the north gate from the south gate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Monday I did a day’s work on manuscripts held in the Bodleian Library.  Particularly, of course, Ashmole 48 – Richard Sheale’s ballad collection. There is some dispute over the purpose of the collection. Sheale is known to have been a minstrel attached to the Stanley family, but interpretations over the years have described Ashmole 48 as his minstrel manuscript or a collection of ballads that he heard and perhaps sung. Most recently, Andrew Taylor has argued that the manuscript was used to collect ballads on Sheale’s travels which he then took back to printers in London for publication. Whatever its purpose when it was compiled, there seems no dispute over the fact that it contains ballads. Which is nice, because it helps me to define ‘ballad’. There were a couple of other very interesting documents too.

Finishing work in Oxford on Monday afternoon marked the end of my work for a week or two. I decided last week that juggling was wearing me out, so for the sake of my sanity and my children I would take a couple of weeks off before they go back to school. As the epitaph ballad went on holiday to Ireland with me in May, this will be the first proper break I’ve had for months.