The ballad books
The oldest printed ballad was Anders Sørensen Vedel’s Hundredvisebog, which was published in 1591. Nine ballad manuscripts originating from prior to 1591 have been preserved. The oldest one (Hjertebogen) is from 1553-1555.
A great deal of the ballads was written down in the 1550s by a circle of young noblemen from the court of Frederik II. However, some of the ballads were recorded by professional scribes, whereas a few ballads are composed by people generally interested in ballads.
The nine ballad manuscripts originating from prior to 1591 are as follows:
- Hjertebogen (1553-1555)
11 epic ballads, 51 lyrical ballads, 16 ballads of chivalry, 2 historical ballads, and 3 ballads of magic
- Jens Billes håndskrift (1555-1559)
7 epic ballads, 22 lyrical ballads, 31 ballads of chivalry, 11 historical ballads, 6 ballads of magic, 4 jocular ballads, 3 heroic ballads, and 3 hymns
- Langebeks kvart (1560-1590)
5 epic ballads, 67 lyrical ballads, 18 ballads of chivalry, 4 historical ballads, 6 jocular ballads, 2 moralizing ballads, and 5 hymns
- Karen Brahes folio, older part
2 epic ballads, 119 ballads of chivalry, 22 historical ballads, 38 ballads of magic, and 20 jocular ballads
- Dronning Sophias visebog (the main part before 1584)
6 epic ballads, 47 lyrical ballads, 37 ballads of chivalry, 6 historical ballads, 3 ballads of magic, 1 jocular ballad, 4 heroic ballads, and 1 hymn
- Anna Munks håndskrift (finished on March 7, 1591)
2 epic ballads, 30 ballads of chivalry, 10 historical ballads, 5 ballads of magic, and 4 heroic ballads
- Rentzells håndskrift and Svanings håndskrift I and II (from the 1580s)
Rentzells håndskrift: 6 epic ballads, 1 lyrical ballad, 15 ballads of chivalry, 24 historical ballads, 6 ballads of magic, 2 jocular ballads, 16 heroic ballads, and 2 hymns; Svanings håndskrift I: 14 epic ballads, 27 lyrical ballads, 75 ballads of chivalry, 6 historical ballads, 12 ballads of magic, 1 jocular ballad, and 6 heroic ballads; Svanings håndskrift II: 3 epic ballads, 1 lyrical ballad, 18 ballads of chivalry, 22 historical ballads, 6 ballads of magic, 12 jocular ballads, 14 heroic ballads, and 1 moralizing ballad
Anders Sørensen Vedel was in possession of Rentzells håndskrift and Svanings håndskrift I and II. These and other manuscripts form the basis of Hundredvisebogen from 1591.
A lot of the ballads are found in scientific publications: the mediaeval ballads in Svend Grundtvig’s Danmarks gamle Folkeviser (1853-1976), the lyrical ballads in Hakon Grüner-Nielsen’s Danske Viser fra Adelsvisebøger og Flyveblade 1530-1630 (1912-30), and the jocular ballads in his Danske Skæmteviser, efter Visehaandskrifter fra 16.-18. Aarh. og Flyveblade (1927-28).