Broadside Ballads

Broadsides have been known in Finland since the 17th century. They were cheap, quickly produced single sheets of paper that were sold on streets and in markets. Broadside ballads were written to the tunes of well-known songs such as hymns and folk songs. Because of the cheap price of the sheets, even the common people could afford to buy them. As a literary genre, broadsides have often been considered insignificant. However, along with calendars and religious literature, they were the most commonly owned printed matter by Finnish people.

At first, the subjects of broadsides were religious, but later, as literacy became more common in Finland, topics often included crimes and accidents, wars, prophecies, and the difficult fates of individuals. Various love songs were especially popular. The writers were mainly men.

The golden age of broadsides in Finland was from 1870 to 1920. As newspapers became more common, they lost their importance as sources of news.

The library has a collection of nearly 1,300 broadside ballads. Search the collection database