Ancient Spanish Ballads: Historical and Romantic

When I first entered the Special Collections Library, I was very surprised to see such delicate pieces scattered all over the room with so many students hovering over what just looked like books. I felt almost afraid to even touch the books, as everything in the atmosphere gave me the impression that things were ever so fragile. Before attending my visit, I had decided off the bat that I was definitely interested in the Ancient Spanish Ballads: Historical and Romantic by John Gibson Lockhart. My first visual impression of the book was how beautiful all the colors combined with the detail made the book look. It was almost as if the combination of the color schemes and designs made the appearance of the literature, bold. Given how old the book was, after looking at different pages full of color, it was obvious how long it must have taken the author and artists of the book to design it. The book was neither big nor small but an average size that appeared very heavy. The paper inside the book was in amazing condition and provided a heavy and thick texture that gave the book its density. Looking at the book was the best way to sense it as the colors were exquisite and provided so much insight into the detail that the ballads were given. Touching the book did not provide much evidence of how old the book was but allowed the detail to surface more, as the patterns of color were in some capacity risen to a slightly higher level. I did not smell anything that was different from an average or normal book, I was surprised by this because I was expecting an older smell to be sensed. The physical nature of the book interested me the most when exploring this special collection. I love to read ballads and romance novels in general so already being intrigued by this theme, the design and attention to detail only made the book feel more intimate. It was almost as if the nature of the idea that the book was about ballads, created the art itself that was displayed in exquisite detail. Colors of blue, red, gold, light green, royal purple, and orange were webbed into designs that presented a physical nature of royalty. The hardcover of black and gold provided a nature of love, romance, and promise for a good read. It was interesting to keep flipping the pages and see how each ballad was displayed on a different page. The color, design, etch, and language of each page was a different message that I think was purposefully designed to be that way. The images and layout of each page was the most interesting thing about the design and this book. Each page had a border that confined the text in a different way. Whether it was an etched design border or a solid colored line of gold, it looked like someone had spent years placing it on the paper. The images all represented whatever poem was present on the page presenting a story of its own. This experience was intriguing and fascinated me beyond belief at the idea of holding a book that was so old and distinguished from others.

There is much to be said about what makes the Ancient Spanish Ballads special in regard to the work, design, and time that was given to this piece of literature. Aside from the fact that John Murray’s ballads were published in 1841 and John Gibson Lockhart translated them in 1842, this is a piece of work that is still moving culture. This book is special and important enough to have been kept and collected because of the context regarding romance. It is truly magnificent and special due to the ballads and representation of romance within Spanish culture. The features connected to the Spanish are intensely filled with language and culture creating great symbolism. Due to the historical aspect of the literature and emphasis of design within the art, the ballads are valued for their indication of the state of Spain, it being a cultural movement and understanding of how Spain looked as a country. The design and structure of each page with color on it represents and holds value for the time and energy that was given by numerous artists. John Murray held great value in regard to his publication, but John Gibson Lockhart also presents a great need as the translations made it easier for other cultures and languages to understand this work. It is also obvious that the ballads are beautifully crafted with color and this is a huge part of why the book has been preserved for so long. While there were many editions that kept getting created over time, with design and art history being somewhat familiar, at this time there was great penwork involved in addition to wood-engraved borders, pieces in styles and colors of all types, and stories that were divided by theme. While there were new developments happening in art during this era, there was much color lithography being invested into this piece of work. Much legibility was worked on through the editions over time, but the original work remained supreme due to the effort that was invested. It took a lot of people to create this magnificent literature, but the book was written by John Gibson Lockhart somewhere between the late 1700’s and mid 1800’s. The illustrations consumed most of the book’s magnificence which were done by William Allan, David Roberts, William Simson, Henry Warren, C. E. Aubrey, and William Harvey. In addition, much of the décor was within Owen Jones’ talent where it gave the book a Victorian illuminated glow and brought life to a piece of work that people have been admiring for centuries. Much of the time and energy that was given to this book was to show the history and culture behind romance and how that is a huge part of life in Spain as a country. Many contributions that were incorporated into this literature were illustrated with great color and detail from numerous people that brought life into the reading.


Ancient Spanish ballads; historical and romantic. A new ed., rev., with an introductory essay on the origin, antiquity, character, and influence of the ancient ballads of Spain: and an analytical account, with specimens, of the romance of the Cid : Lockhart, J. G. (John Gibson), 1794-1854 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming. (1970, January 1). Retrieved from

Commentary by Alice H. R. H. Beckwith. (2013, December 26). Retrieved February 4, 2020, from

Jones, O., Roberts, D., Lockhart, Jones, O., Roberts, D., & Lockhart, J. G. (n.d.). ANCIENT SPANISH BALLADS: HISTORICAL AND ROMANTIC by Spanish Ballads, Poetry, Owen Jones, David Roberts, J. on Buddenbrooks Inc. Retrieved from

Translating Romances, Writing Spain: John Gibson Lockhart’s Ancient Spanish Ballads. (2016, November 9). Retrieved from