The Rhymes of Robin Hood 9

Printed Sources for the Tales of Robin Hood

c.1510    ‘A lyttel geste, of Robyn Hode and his meyne, and of the proude sheryfe of Notyngham’. Printed by Wynkyn de Worde (London). A unique copy survives at the Library of the University of Cambridge, Sel. 5. 18. The best editions of this text are those by Ritson, Gutch, Child and Ohlgren (see below).

c.1510    ‘A Gest of Robyn Hode’. Without date, place or printer’s name. It is the eleventh and last piece in a volume of printed tracts, nine of the other pieces were printed by Walter Chepman and Andrew Myllar, three of these reportedly printed at Edinburgh in 1508. Once housed in the Advocates Library Edinburgh, this volume is now in the National Library of Scotland; this version of the Gest was  probably printed by Jan van Doesborch in Antwerp.

16th century?    An edition of the Gest by Richard Pynson (d. 1530) also survives in fragments. These fragments are: (1) A leaf, Inc.4.J.3.6. in University Library, Cambridge. (2) The Penrose fragment, a leaf and a half, in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington (PR1400 13688). (3) In the Bodleian Library, from the collection of Francis Douce (1757-1834), Douce fragment f. 51. It has been suggested that this edition was the original of the text found among the Chepman and Myllar prints. There are two other fragments of the Gest in the Douce collection; these are catalogued as Douce fragments e. 12 (verses 26-60) and f. I. (verses 280-350). Thomas Ohlgren attributes e. 12 to Hugo Goes (York, 1506)? and f. I. to Julian Notary (1515), in the Bodleian Library.

1557-8    ‘A ballett of Wakefylde and a grene’ entered in London Stationers Registers (Arber, I, p. 76). Possibly an earlier but now lost version of the ballad of The Jolly Pinder of Wakefield.

c.1560    ‘A mery geste of Robyn Hoode and of hys lyfe, wyth a newe playe for to be played in Maye games very plesaunte and full of pastyme.’ This version of the Gest was printed at the Three Cranes Wharf, London, by William Copland.

c.1561-9    A reprint of William Copland’s edition of the Gest by John Farmer, Robin Hood.

1562-3    ‘A ballett of Robyn Hod’ entered in London Stationers Registers (Arber, I, p.204). This ballad cannot be identified, however the only Robin Hood ‘ballad’ apart from that for 1557-8 (above) that was definitely printed before the end of the sixteenth century.

c.1590    ‘A merry Iest of Robin Hood, and of his life, With a newe play for to be plaied in May-games. Very pleasant and full of pastime.’ This is a reprint of William Copland’s edition by Edward White, London.

1631    Martin Parker, ‘A true tale of Robbin Hood, or A briefe touch of the life and death of Robert Earle of Huntington, vulgarly called Robbin Hood.’ Printed for T. Cotes, sold by F. Grove, London. An edition by Clark, Thackeray, and Passinger. London, 1686.

17th century    The Robin Hood ballads in the collection of Anthony a Wood (1632-1695) in the Bodleian Library; these represent a good portion of the ballads in the edition by Joseph Ritson.

1662    ‘The noble birth and gallant atchievements of that remarkable oulaw Robin Hood; together with a true account of the many merry and extravagant exploits he play’d, in twelve several stories, newly collected into one volume by an ingenious antiquary.’ Printed at London, for Thomas Vere and William Gilbertson. (Prose versions of twelve of the Robin Hood ballads from the common Garland).

1663    ‘Robin Hoods Garland; or Delightful Songs, Shewing the noble Exploits of Robin Hood, and his Yeomendrie. With new Edditions and Emendations’.(17 ballads) London, Printed for W. Gilbertson, at the Bible in Giltspur Street without Newgate. In the collection of Anthony a Wood. (Bodleian Library). The earliest datable copy of the many editions of Robin Hood’s Garland, still being printed in great quantities in the 1820s.

1670    Robin Hoods Garland. Containing his merry Exploits, and the several Fights which he, Little John, and Will. Scarlet had, upon several occasions. Some of them never before Printed. London, printed for F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright. Sixteen ballads in the collection of Francis Douce. ( Bodleian Library).

c.1741    Robin Hoods Garland. Printed by C. Dicey in Bow Church Yard. ( Bodleian Library).

1749    Robin Hoods Garland, without place or printer. (Percy Papers, Harvard College Library).

c.1753    Robin Hoods Garland. Printed by W. & C. Dicey, in St Mary Aldermary Church Yard, Bow Lane, Cheapside, and sold at the Warehouse in Northampton. ( Bodleian Library)

1765    Thomas Percy, Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (3 vols., London; and many later editions). Includes a text of Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne and other ballads from the Percy Folio.

1777    Thomas Evans, Old Ballads, Historical and Narrative (2 vols., London; later editions of 1784 and 1810). Contains the great majority of the Robin Hood ballads in the common garland. (27 Robin Hood Ballads)

1786    The English Archer . . . Robin Hood. Paisley, printed by John Neilson for George Caldwell, Bookseller, near the Cross. (Bodleian Library).


The English Archer, or . . . Robin Hood. York, printed by N. Nickson in Feasegate. (Bodleian Library).

Robin Hood’s Garland. Printed by L. How in Peticoat Lane. ( Bodleian Library).

Robin Hood’s Garland. London, J Marshall & Co., Aldermary Churchyard. (Harvard College Library).

Robin Hood’s Garland. London. R Marshall, in Aldermary Church Yard, Bow Lane. (Harvard College Library).

Captain Delany’s Garland. In a collection of folio sheet-ballads mostly dated 1775. Edinburgh (?). British Museum, 1346. m. 7. (9).

Robin Hood’s Garland. York, T. Wilson and R. Spence. ( Bodleian Library).

Robin Hood’s Garland. Preston, Printed and sold by W. Sergent. ( Bodleian Library).

Robin Hood’s Garland. Wolverhampton, Printed and sold by J. Smart. (Bodleian Library).

Robin Hood’s Birth, Breeding, Valor and Marriage, printed in Dryden’s Miscellany, VI, 346, ed. 1716.

Robin Hood and the Bishop of Hereford (A version) printed in Popular Music of the Olden Time, William Chappell, (1809-1888) p. 395 from a broadside printed for Daniel Wright.

The Robin Hood ballads in Collection of Old Ballads, London; Printed for J. Roberts 1723.

Robin Hood’s Progress to Nottingham among the ballads of Richard Heber (1773-1833).

Robin Hood and the Duke of Lancaster. A Ballad. To the tune of The Abbot of Canterbury. Printed for J. Roberts in Warwick Lane, And sold by the Booksellers of London and Westminster, 1727. (folio pamphlet in the British Library: 1490 f. 4)

Robin Hood and Little John, in a list of ballads printed for and sold by William Thackeray at the Angel in Duck-Lane, in 1689.

A copy of ‘Roben Hod’, priced at 2d., occurs in the catalogue of an Oxford bookseller in 1520. This was probably a printed edition of the Gest rather than some smaller ballad of Robin Hood: ‘The daily ledger of John Dorne, 1520’, ed. F. Madan, Oxford Historical Society, Collectanea, 1st series, III (1885), p.79.

Robin Hood’s Birth, Breeding, Valor and Marriage, in a collection of old ballads formerly belonging to Thomas Pearson, esq, and subsequently to the duke of Roxburghe.

Robin Hood and Allin a Dale, from a black letter copy in major Pearson’s collection.

Robin Hood and the Scotchman, (B version in Child) in Gutch’s Robin Hood, II, 392, from an Irish garland, printed at Monaghan, 1796.

1795    Joseph Ritson, Robin Hood: A Collection of all the Ancient Poems, Songs and Ballads, now extant, relative to that celebrated Outlaw 2 vols., London. Considered the most comprehensive collection of Robin Hood ballads as well as literary references. Contains an edition of the Gest and the first printed text of Robin Hood and the Potter. (33 Robin Hood Ballads)

18th century    The Robin Hood Ballads in the collections of Samuel Pepys, (1633-1703) at Magdalen College, Cambridge; Richard Rawlinson, (1690-1755) in the Bodleian Library, and John Bagford, (1651-1716) whose collection became part of the Roxburghe collection of ballads (see below).

1806    Robert Jamieson, Popular Ballads and Songs, from tradition, manuscripts and scarce editions (2 vols., Edinburgh). Contains three Robin Hood ballads and the first printed text of Robin Hood and the Monk.

1808    Adventures of . . . Robin Hood. Falkirk, Printed and sold by T. Johnston. ( Bodleian Library).

19th century    The History of Robin Hood and the Beggar. Aberdeen. A. Keith (1810-35). (Bodleian Library).

19th century    Robin Hood ballads in the collection of Francis Douce, (1757-1834) three fragments in his collection contain parts of the Gest. (see above) In the Bodleian Library.

1827    A type facsimile of A Gest of Robyn Hode among the Chepman and Myllar prints (see above) printed by David Laing. This is not an exact reproduction of the original.

1828    William John Thoms, Early English Prose Romances (3 vols., London; and other editions of 1858 and 1906). Includes a copy of ‘The noble birth and gallant atchievements of that remarkable outlaw Robin Hood.’ (see above).

1829    Charles Henry Hartshorne, Ancient Metrical Tales; printed chiefly from original sources (London). Includes a printed text of Robin Hood and the Monk.

1838    William Chappell, A Collection of National English Airs (2 vols., London; and editions of 1859 and 1893). Prints the music of nine Robin Hood ballads.

1846    James Henry Dixon, Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England (Percy Society, London). Includes the text of The Bold Pedlar and Robin Hood.

1847    John Mathew Gutch, A Lytell Geste of Robin Hode, with other ancient and modern ballads and songs (2 vols., London; and edition of 1850). A large collection of Robin Hood literature, with ‘Musical illustrations of the Robin Hood Ballads’ by E.F. Rimbault.

1853    An edition of the Gest by William W. Campbell.

1857-9    Francis James Child, English and Scottish Ballads (8 vols., Boston; and editions of 1864 and 1885-6). The forerunner of Child’s much more extensive collection (see below).

1864    William Allingham, The Ballad Book: A selection of the choicest  British Ballads (Cambridge; and edition of 1898). Includes the Gest and two Robin Hood ballads.

1867-8    Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscript: Ballads and Romances, ed J. W. Hales and F. J. Furnivall (3 vols., London). The first correct, and still definitive edition of the Robin Hood ballads in the Percy Folio.

1871-99    The Roxburghe Ballads, Printed for the Ballad Society (9 vols., London). Provides printed texts of the Robin Hood ballads that are found in the three-volume collection of Roxburgh Ballads in the British Museum Library. This collection was bound in 1774 and was originally formed by Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer (1661-1724). The Bagford Ballads, collected by John Bagford, (1651-1716) were included in Harley’s collection, which has been  augmented by successive owners, including John Ker, 3rd Duke of Roxburgh (1740-1804). His library was auctioned in 1812, leading to the formation of the Roxburghe Club.

1882-98    Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (5 vols., Boston). Vol. III, pp. 39-233, contains Child’s texts of the Gest and the Robin Hood ballads, the standard edition since it first appeared in 1888. (50 Robin Hood Ballads, counting all versions)

1894    F.B. Gunmere, Old English Ballads (Boston). Includes the Gest and three Robin Hood ballads.

1897    Andrew Lang, A Collection of Ballads (London). Includes three Robin Hood ballads.

1904    English and Scottish Popular Ballads (edited from the collection of F.J. Child by H.C. Sargent and G. L. Kettredge, Boston). Includes texts of all the Robin Hood ballads printed by Child.

1910    Arthur Quiller-Couch, The Oxford Book of Ballads (Oxford). Includes modernized versions of the Gest and eleven Robin Hood ballads.

1912    Frank Sidgwick, Popular Ballads of the Olden Time, Fourth Series (London). Contains ‘Ballads of Robin Hood and Other Outlaws’.

1914    William Copland’s edition of the Gest, (see above) reproduced in facsimile in Old English Drama (Student’s Facsimile Edition).

1918    George Stevenson, Pieces from the Makculloch and the Gray MSS. Together with the Chepman and Myllar Prints. (The Scottish Text Society, Edinburgh/London), 267-90.

1948    G. E. Morris, ‘A Ryme of Robyn Hod’, Modern Language Review, XLIII, pp. 507-8. The first printed edition of a fragmentary poem of the early fifteenth century in Lincoln Carthederal Library MS. 132. ‘Robyn hod in scherewod stod hodud and hathud hosut and schod ffour/ And thuynti arowus he bar in hit hondus’.

1950    William Beattie, The Chepman and Myllar Prints. Nine Tracts from the First Scottish Press, Edinburgh, 1508. Followed by the Two Other Tracts in the Same Volume in the National Library of Scotland. A Facsimile with a Bibliographical Note (The Edinburgh Bibliographical Society), 197-220. Contains an edition of A Gest of Robyn Hode, originally among the Chepman and Myllar prints (see above).

1955    MacEdwards Leach, The Ballad Book (New York). A large modern anthology, including many American versions and variants of Robin Hood and other ballads.

1956    A.B. Friedman, The Viking Book of Folk Ballads of the English speaking World. (New York)

1959-72    B.H. Bronson, The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads (4 vols., Princeton, New Jersey). Vol III, pp. 13-71, prints and discusses the tunes of the Robin Hood ballads.

1965    M Hodgart, The Faber Book of Ballads (London). Contains only two of the Robin Hood ballads.

1976    R.B. Dobson and J. Taylor, Rymes of Robyn Hood. An Introduction to the English Outlaw. (William Heinemann Ltd London). A good overview of the ballads and literature of Robin Hood.

2006-7    Thomas H. Ohlgren, Robin Hood: The Early Poems 1465-1560, University of Delaware Press.

2013    Thomas H. Ohlgren and Lister M. Matheson, Early Rymes of Robyn Hood: An Edition of the Texts, ca. 1425 to ca. 1600, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 2013.

This page contains information found in Rymes of Robyn Hood, Dobson and Taylor, pp. 312-315;  The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, F.J. Child, Vol. V., p. 399.