Breton songs on popular prints
Broadsheets database

General informations - Definition of Terms

Catalog and database

It is worth recalling a few obvious elements:
Databases are the modern form of old printed catalogs. They allow us to: Moreover, modern technology makes it possible to propose the visualization of reproductions of the documents themselves and free access via the Internet where the old paper editions only allowed us to supply references.
Subsequently, in this presentation, we will only talk about the site made available to the public but clearly, in the background, the site works only because there is a database.


"Songs" is considered here as a generic term.
The texts gathered in this site are in the great majority of cases, intended to be sung. The indication "to the tune of…" clearly attests to this.
In general, all these productions have in common the fact of being versified.

But their status and purpose may be extremely variable: It is often fashionable to set limits on a collection!
Although this may be necessary during the realization of a literary work, within the framework of this site, this option appeared inappropriate. Indeed, what would be the relevance of arbitrarily imposed limits, depending much more on the personal interests of the person establishing the corpus than on taking into account the productions and practices of the population, however diverse they may be. It has therefore been preferred here to respect this diversity of practices, even if they are abundant, to arbitrary, presupposed and largely artificial limits.

On a different scale, we find the same problem when we consider the repertoire of traditional singers. A given singer will prefer sentimental, dramatic, humorous, political, or contemporary songs. A catalog or database is not intended to promote and retain one domain over another.
Moreover, observation of the practices clearly shows that the singers themselves are not particularly interested in the categories: a love song, a drama or a hymn can indifferently accompany the preparation of vegetables or the milking of cows… and the latter rarely express preferences!

This inadequacy of a priori limitations will also be found in many other fields, be they authors, printed materials, language, themes (see the corresponding chapters). It is the observation of practices and facts which must generate the principles of classification and not an arbitrary principle which should decide what is taken into account or not.


For the site is only concerned with productions made in Brittany or by Bretons, both in Breton and French (or exceptionally in Gallo), and generally relating to Brittany (either because of the language used or by reason of the subject or the intention of the poetry).

The songs present on this site are mostly in the Breton language because it is this area that interests us more particularly (we accept full responsibility for our subjectivity!). But it was considered preferable to also take into account certain songs in French, especially when they were present on the same broadsheets as songs in Breton.

In the current state of the site, the work of compiling the broadsheets in French has not yet been done. Part of the work has been begun by Vincent Morel concerning criminal ballads but it is not yet integrated into the base.

In addition to its geographical and cultural character, the term "Breton" made it possible to define the subject without reverting to the subtleties of the terms "popular" or "traditional". These terms seem ill-suited to define the pieces gathered here.
While some songs may be considered "popular" because they have gained popularity, (having been distributed widely, having been the subject of various editions), sometimes even having entered the oral tradition, others seem to have remained only in written form and therefore relatively confidential (with all the prudence imposed by our lack of knowledge of real practices, despite some 150,000 recordings available at Dastum).

"Popular prints"

We find here the same composite character as that already mentioned for the term "songs".

Indeed, while the common feature of these pieces is that they have been disseminated through inexpensive printed materials, when we look at the details, there are many variations to be distinguished: Taking into account these different supports is also useful because they often complement each other. Thus, a song can be edited anonymously in a broadsheet or a booklet, but be the subject of additional information (for example, by author or date) on a press cutting or in a magazine.

For the time being, books have not been included here simply through limited time and priority though not as a matter of principle. The primordial interest remains the work and not its material support.
It is more informative to be able to follow the circulation of a piece (in a book, a press cutting, a broadsheet, and in orality) than to ignore this diversity in the name of arbitrary limits.
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