A Bibliography of Sea Chanteys & Sailors’ Songs

The following is a partially annotated bibliography of our sources on chanteys and sailors’ songs, mostly books, but with an occasional article also listed.

I. Basic Collections: Excellent foundations for sea song study or performance, each of these works contains ample commentary and many well-known chanteys.

Colcord, Joanna C. Songs of American Sailormen. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1938; reprinted 1967. Revised and enlarged edition of Roll and Go: Songs of the American Sailormen (1924). Perhaps the best-known American collection; about 100 songs with tunes and ample commentary.

Doerflinger, William Main. Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman. New York: Macmillan, 1972. Revised edition of Shantymen and Shantyboys (1951). Thorough documentation; about 100 (specifically) sea songs, with tunes.

Hugill, Stan. Shanties and Sailors’ Songs. New York: F. A. Praeger, 1969. The most detailed history and technical explanation of chanteying of any book; 40 songs with tunes.

II. Collections devoted to sea songs or with significant sections on them.

Ashton, John. Real sailor-songs. London: Leadenhall; New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1891.

Baltzer, Richard. “Knurrhahn”: sammlung deutscher und englischer seemanns lieder und shanties wie sie auf deutschen segelschiffen gesun gen wurden. Kiel: A. C. Ehlers, 1936.

Barnes, James. Ships and Sailors: being a collection of songs of the sea as sung by the men who sail it: with numerous illustrations in colour and black-and-white by Rufus F. Zogbaum. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1898.

Bone, David William. Capstan Bars. Edinburgh: The Porpoise Press, 1931. 23 songs with tunes.

Bonyun, Bill. Full hold and splendid passage: America goes to sea. 1815-1860. New York: Knopf, 1969. Includes chanteys.

Boughton, George Piper. Seafaring. London: Faber and Gwyer limited, 1926. Includes music (sailors’ chanteys).

Carey, George, ed. A Sailor’s Songbag: An American rebel in an English prison. 1777-1779. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1976. Interesting collection culled from an 1 8th-century manuscript journal.

Clements, Rex. Manavilins. a muster of sea-songs. as distinguished from shanties. written for the most part by seamen. and sung on board ship during the closing years of the age of sail. 1890- 1910. London: Heath, Cranton, limited, 1928.

Colcord, Joanna Carver. Roll and go, songs of American sailormen. Indianapolis, IN: BoobsMerrill company, 1924.

Davis, Frederick J., & Ferris Tozer. Sailors’ Songs or “Chanties”: the words by Frederick J. Davis. the music composed and arranged upon traditional sailor airs by Ferris Tozer. London: Boosey, 1887. No commentary.

Dibdin, Charles. The songs of Charles Dibdin. chronologically arranged. with notes. historical. biographical. and critical: and the music of the best and most popular of the melodies. with new piano-forte accompaniments.London: G. H. Davidson, 1847 (5th edition). Songs celebrate the British Tar.

Doerflinger, William Main. Shantymen and shantyboys: songs of the sailor and lumberman. New York: Macmillan, 1951.

Firth, Charles Harding. Naval Songs and Ballads. London: Navy Records Society, 1908.

Flenniken, Ralph, & Harry Garfield. Chanteys of the Sea: Official Book of the U. S. Maritime Service. Circa 1947. Popularized versions; no commentary.

Foley, Ruth Howard. “Sing out ye hardy seamen.” The lookout. Vol. 65 no. 2 (1974), pp. 3-6. The Forecastle songster. New York: Cornish, 1851. Without music; some of the tunes indicated by title.

Frothingham, Robert. Songs of the Sea and Sailors’ Chanteys. Cambridge, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1924. Mostly poetry; contains some traditional songs.

Glass, Paul, & Louis C. Singer. Songs of the Sea: Chanteys. historical songs [and] ballads. New York: Grosset & Dunlap. 1966. Popularized adaptions; no commentary. Good for young readers.

Greenleaf, Elisabeth B., & Grace Y. Mansfield. Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1933. Traditional songs of shore, fisheries, sealing, deepwater trades; a few chanteys.

Hall, Ernie. Flotsam, jetsam and lagan from the seven seas. the five Great Lakes and our inland rivers. Cambridge, MD: Cornell Maritime Press, 1965.

Halliwell, James Orchard. The Early Naval Ballads of England. London: Percy Society, 1841. 57 songs; no tunes.

Harlow, Frederick Pease. Chanteying Aboard American Ships. Barre, MA: Barre Gazette, 1962 Excerpted and enlarged from The Making of a Sailor (Salem, 1928). Excellent collection based on the author’s experience at sea in the 1870’s. The earlier work was mainly the account of a cruise on the Akbar, but contained 28 songs, most with tunes.

Healy, James N. Irish Ballads and Songs of the Sea. Cork, Ireland: Mercier Press, 1967.

Hugill, Stan. Shanties from the Seven Seas: shipboard work-songs and songs used as worksongs from the great days of sail. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul; New York. Dutton, 1961. Enormous British collection, arranged topically; illustrated by the author, a British chanteyman and marine painter; includes some foreign songs. About 430 [!] songs with tunes.

Hugill, Stan. Songs of the Sea: the tales and tunes of sailors and sailing ships. New York: McGraw- Hill, 1977. Lavish international collection of chanteys and (especially) forecastle songs, profusely illustrated. The “coffee-table” chantey book. About 110 songs with tunes.

Huntington, Gale. Songs the Whalemen Sang. Barre, MA: Barre Publishers, 1964. Collected from Yankee whalemen’s journals: songs originally collected and sung on whaleships. A unique book, but unfortunately marred by lapses in scholarship and transcription. Texts of the songs, with tunes supplied by the editor from various sources.

Hurst, A. The music of five oceans. London: H. Locke, [1960].

Irving, John. The yachtsman’s week-end book. London: Seeley Service & Co., [1952].

Ives, Burl. Sea Songs of Sailing, Whaling and Fishing. New York: Ballantine Books, 1956. Popularized versions, 68 songs with tunes.

Kemp, Harry. Chanteys and ballads. sea-chanteys. tramp-ballads and other ballads and poems.New York: Brentano’s, [1920]. Reprinted from various periodicals.

King, Stanton Henry. King’s Book of Chanties. Boston: Oliver Ditson Company, 1918. New York: C. H. Ditson & Co., 1918. He is called “official government chanty-man” on the title page.

Kirsch, William E. The “Barnacle Bill” collection: chanteys. songs and poems. Branford, CT: the author, 1976. 55-page typescript.

Lawson, Cecil C. Naval ballads & sea songs. London: P. Davies, 1933.

Ley, J. W. T. “The Sea Songs of Dickens.” The Dickensian. Vol. 27 (Autumn 1931), pp. 255-266.

Mackenzie, William Roy. Ballads and Sea Songs from Nova Scotia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1928. Few tunes.

Manners, Tom Edward. Songs of seas and tall ships, a collection of sea ballads. Hollywood, CA: Murray & Gee, 1942. Without music.

Mead, John Holstead. Sea shanties and fo’c’sle [sic] songs, 1768-1906, in the G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport, Mystic. Connecticut. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 1973. Ph.D. thesis. A “study devoted to music as it existed aboard Anglo-American sail vessels, primarily of the nineteenth century”.

Meloney, William Brown IV. The chanty man sings. New York: [Printed by C. J. O’Brien, inc.], 1926. An edition of 200 copies.

Moseley, Caroline. “Images of Young Women in Nineteenth-Century Songs of the Sea.” The Log of Mystic Seaport. Vol. 35 no. 4 (Winter 1984), pp. 132-139.

“Music of the sea.” The Compass. Vol. 34 no. 2 (1964), pp. 7-9.

Naval songs: a collection of original. selected and traditional sea songs. New York: Wm. A. Pond & Co., 1883.

Neeser, Robert Wilden. American Naval Songs & Ballads. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; London: H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1938. About 170 lyrics; no tunes. Mainly broadsides; well documented and annotated.

Ocean melodies: a collection of music. selected principally from the spirit-stirring productions of popular composers. to which are added appropriate hymns. designed for the social and private devotion of seamen arranged by J. H. Hanaford. Boston: John Putnam; John P. Jewett, 1847. 63 pages.

The Oxford book of sea songs. chosen and edited by Roy Palmer. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Palmer, Roy. The Valiant Sailor: Sea songs and Ballads and prose passages illustrating life on the lower deck in Nelson’s navy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973. 29 songs, 3 fife and fiddle tunes; excellent text quotes early journals, etc. Matches recording of the same name.

Procter Brothers. Fishermen’s ballads and songs of the sea. Compiled by Procter brothers. and respectfully dedicated to the hardy fishermen of Cape Ann. Gloucester, MA: Procter brothers, 1874.

Runciman, Sir Walter. Windjammers and sea tramps. London: Walter Scott Pub. Co., 1905 (2nd ed.).

Sampson, John. The Seven Seas Shanty Book. London: Novello, 1919. Popularized versions with piano arrangements.

Scarlet and blue. or. songs for soldiers and sailors. edited by John Farmer. London: Cassell andCo.: Joseph Williams, 1896.

Sea sequel to The Week-end book. London: The Nonesuch press; New York: Random house, 1935. An anthology of sea poetry, stories, songs, games, etc., intended for the sea-going traveler.

Shay, Frank. American Sea Songs and Chanteys from the Days of Iron Men & Wooden Ships. New York: W. W. Norton, 1948. Enlarged version of The Days of Iron Men & Wooden Ships (New York: Doubleday, 1924) with tunes and commentary added. The earlier work has 47 songs with brief notes only.

Shay, Frank. Iron men & wooden ships, deep sea chanties. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1924. 47 songs with brief notes.

Smith, C. Fox. A Book of Shanties. London: Methuen & co. Itd., 1927.

Smith, Cicely Fox. Sea songs and ballads. 1917-22. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1924.

Smith, Cicely Fox. Small craft: sailor ballads and chantys. New York: George H. Doran Company, [1919]. Reprinted in part from various periodicals.

Smith, Laura Alexandrine. The Music of the Waters. A collection of the sailors’ chanties. or working songs of the sea. of all maritime nations. Boatmen’s. fishermen’s. and rowing songs. and water legends. London: Kegan Paul, Trench 1888. Early international collection; about three dozen chanteys with music.

Stone, Christopher. Sea Songs and Ballads. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906. Mostly poetry, some traditional songs; no tunes.

Stowe, Phineas. Ocean melodies and seamen’s companion: a collection of hymns and music: for the use of bethels. chaplains of the navy. and private devotion of mariners. Boston: Phineas Stowe, 1866 (12th edition).

Taube, Evert. Sea ballads and other songs: text and music by Evert Taube. English version by Helen Asbury. Stockholm: Kings press, [1940].

Taylor, Ellis P. Salty lullabies and sea chanteys. [n.p., 1951].

Trident Society. The Book of Navy Songs. Revised edition. Annapolis, MD: U. S. Naval Institute Press, 1955. Originally published in Garden City, 1926.

Vanderdecken: a chantey. [n.p., n.d.] Typewritten on cover: Appleton’s book lovers magazine.

Visiak, Edward Harold. Buccaneer ballads. London: Elkin Mathews, 1910.

Webb, Robert Lloyd. ” ‘Old Moke’ Afloat: Notes on the Minstrel Origins of the Banjo at Sea.” The Log of Mystic Seaport. Vol. 35 no. 4 (Winter 1984), pp. 107-117.

Whall, W. B. Sea Songs and Shanties. Glasgow: Brown, Son & Ferguson, 1910. First published under title Ships, sea songs and shanties. 64 songs with tunes; sparse but adequate commentary, some illustrations.

III. The following are additional sea-song collections which are not at present in the G. W. Blunt White Library collection.

Bok, Gordon. Time and the Flying Snow. Sharon, CT: Folk Legacy, 1977. Sea songs by a modern songwriter strongly influenced by traditional song.

Bullen, Frank, & W. F. Arnold. Songs of Sea Labour. London: Swan, 1914.

Chappell, William. Popular Music of the Olden Time. 2 vols. 1859; rpt. New York: Dover, 1965. Tunes for many of the songs in Halliwell. Mainly ballad literature.

Creighton, Helen. Maritime Folksongs. Toronto: Ryerson, [n.d.]. Traditional songs from the Canadian Maritime Provinces, including many French songs.

Creighton, Helen. Songs and Ballads from Nova Scotia. New York: Dover, 1966. 150 songs, many with nautical motifs, with tunes.

Eckstorm, F. H., & M. W. Smyth. Minstrelsy of Maine. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1927. Has section on sea and shore: 50 songs, but no tunes. Valuable for coastwise songs and interesting speculation on origin of the word “chantey” and manner of folksong creation.

Hurd, Michael. Sailor’s Songs and Shanties. Oxford: Oxford University Press, [n.d.]. Attractive format; suitable for young readers.

Ives, Edward. Lawrence Doyle: The Farmer-Poet of Prince Edward Island: A Study in Local Songmaking. Orono, ME: University of Maine, 1971. Scholarly treatment of songwriting in a maritime community. Complements his other studies, Joe Scott. the Woodsman Songmaker and Larry Gorman: The Man Who Made the Songs. Words and music to several songs along with detailed studies of the history, composition, and transmission of each song.

Karpeles, Maud. Folk Songs from Newfoundland. Archon, 1970.

Kitchener, William. The Sea Songs of England. London: Hurst, Robinson, 1823. Mainly Naval.

Klay, Bernie. Songs of the X-Seamen’s Institute. New York: Tapinta, [n.d.]. Songs performed by a modern ensemble.

Leach, MacEdward. Folk Ballads & Songs of the Lower Labrador Coast. Ottawa: National Museum of Canada, 1965. 138 songs with tunes; many with nautical motif.

Linscott, Eloise H. Folk Songs of Old New England. Archon, 1974.

Lomax, Alan. Folk Songs of North America. New York: Doubleday, 1975. Usually gleanings from other printed sources–a comprehensive collection with a short section on sea songs.

Luce, S. B. Naval Songs. New York: Pond, 1883.

Masefield, John. A Sailor’s Garland. London: 1924. Poet Laureate’s anthology of poetry: contains some traditional songs (no tunes).

Masefield, John. Sea Songs. London: 1906.

Ryan, Shannon, and Larry Small. Haulin’ Rope & Gaff. St. John’s: Breakwater Books, 1978. A book on sealing; 156 songs and poems. 17 tunes; notes to songs, etc.

Sandburg, Carl. The American Songbag. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1927. Source for chantey material was Robert Frost, the poet, who grew up along the San Francisco wharves.

Terry, Sir Richard R. The Shanty Book. 3 vols. London: Curwen, 1921-1926.

Williams, Ralph Vaughan, & A. L. Lloyd. The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Baltimore:
Penguin, 1969. Several unusual but excellent songs with tunes and end notes.

Originally compiled by Stuart M. Frank, Research Associate

Revised by Robert D. Madison, Chantey Interpreter

This revision by Mary K. Bercaw Edwards, Demonstration Squad Foreman

Education Department
Mystic Seaport
Mystic, CT 06355

(Revised 1992/1993; earlier revision 1982; copyright 1973 Mystic Seaport)