The Gleeman


Gleeman (n.) A name anciently given to an itinerant minstrel or musician.

(Webster's Dictionary, from Project Gutenburg;

This site has a number of aims. These include:

The first thing to note is that this site is new, and work is "in progress". There are few tunes on the site. However, I hope over the coming years to increase the content with persistence, if not with speed.

Old Site

This site is undergoing a revamp after being neglected for a number of years. However I thought it might be best to preserve the old site. Therefore the old site (unamended) can be found at

Standard Disclaimer

I am not a lawyer. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice.

Why This Site?

Although it is easy enough to buy books on Ballads or books of Traditional Folk Songs, almost without exception, these are subject to some form of copyright. This may be with regards any arrangements made for the tunes, any editing made regarding the text, and the typographic layout of the publication. This is fair enough. If effort has been put in by a compiler and arranger in sorting out the material, editing it and getting it published, then they should expect some reward (protected by copyright) for their efforts.

This can leave us with the problem of what we can do with the material, if anything. Copyright (in theory) only extends to original work (see Unfortunately, what constitutes an original work can up for debate. For instance, you may think that a scanned version of a public domain document will itself be public domain. However, see for a collection of scanned broadsheet ballads, and note the copyright notice!

Unfortunately, we live in a litigious age. We also live in an age where the concept of "intellectual property" is coming to the fore, with, it seems, many in business are thinking of how they can "monetise" their IP portfolio. With editing, arranging and typography, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know what is in the public domain, and what is not.

The simplest solution is to turn to those texts which are out of copyright and in the public domain (what is meant by "public domain" is discussed on the copyright page). This is not as easy as it sounds, as these texts are rare and highly sought after. When they do become available, the price asked can be prohibitive. This seems especially so where books containing the old airs are concerned. Another solution (for the modern age) is to look to the internet. Unfortunately, although one may find copies of the old tunes on the internet, often their provenance (whether they are in copyright or in the public domain) can be uncertain.

This is (hopefully) where this site comes in. I have managed to get my hands on a number of old published editions that are in the public domain (see the bibliography for more details). I intend to publish as much from this public domain material as I can. For what I publish, I also intend to provide detailed notes as to where I got the material. Users of this site would hopefully be convinced that the material they download will be both legitimate and accurate.

Site Copyright

As a rough guide, pages with airs and songs on are in the public domain. The rest is copyright, but licensed under a Creative Commons license. Please see the copyright page for further details..

And Finally

As I said earlier, this site is in progress. Should anyone have any suggestions, feel free to let me know. In the meantime, enjoy!

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