Books to Read

    • Shanties From The Seven Seas: Collected by Stan Hugill.  If you ever collect one book for sea music, this is the one.  You can find this one on Amazon and at Mystic Seaport, among other venues.
    • Howard Hornstein wrote a great book Favorite Sea Songs of the Ancient Mariners Chanteymen.  I do not know if this is to be found on Ebay or Amazon, but if you track down the Ancient Mariners Fife&Drum Corps, you might be able to purchase a copy from their store keeper.


    • If you can find a copy, a fairly rare book worth collecting is Ballads And Sea Songs of Newfoundland.  It is a collection by Elisabeth Bristol Greenleaf and publishing in 1933 by Harvard University Press.  I found my copy via a used book seller vending through Ebay, but if you search enough, you may find a copy.  Excellent resource and enoyable reading.
    • During his visit up to rejoin us in December of 2013, our Bob Stepno gifted me a delightful little tome In Praise of Ale by W. T. Marchant, 1888.  A collection of songs, poems, &c relating to ale and beer… Like many early books of “songs”, the lyrics are provided but not the melodies, so it’s not readily useable for the singer in us.  However, if you love the source information for so many of our drinking songs, and if perhaps you like to either make up your own melodies or apply tunes that make a good fit, then you need to hunt down a copy of this… It has been republished.


      • Songs The Whalemen Sang by Gale Huntington, 1964, Barre Publishers.  This is still in print, as I understand, and available through Amazon.  And our own Rick Spencer wrote the forward seen in the later issues.
      • Real Sailor-Songs collected and edited by John Ashton, 1891.  I have not found any reprints of this delightful collection although I’ve a copy in my own archives.  Sea songs from the British perspective – alas, as was all too common with these early collections, the melodies are not provided, and any song sans melody is a poem yearning for a tune…
      • Real Sailor's Songs
      • Shanties And Sailors’ Songs is another Stan Hugill book highly recommended. Well, anything the man wrote is required collecting for sea music libraries.  It is no longer in print but you might find some second hand copies on Amazon; I would grab a copy while you can, for they cannot be available forever.  My copy is a second printing, 1969, Praeger Publishers.
      • Here’s a Good Luck to the Pint Pot ~ A Pocket Full of Drinking Songs: The late Caryl P. Weiss, a member of the all-ladies group “Liverpool Judies”, honourary Admiral of the Texas Navy, &c, and friend of Cliff’s, had put together this little gem in 1979.  Cliff was selling them during the mid-80s for 5$ apiece.  But it is out of print and not likely to ever come back… If you can find one on Ebay or such, grab it!  Or you might ask me nicely for a photocopy version… Caryl personally had given me permission to do just that as she had no plans to reprint.

Pint Pot 001        248916_218357731518608_6462724_n

      • The Oxford Book of Sea Songs, chosen and edited by Roy Palmer.  This is another really good one for your library – put out in 1986 but I believe it is no longer in print.  However, there’s always Ebay or Amazon


      • Add to your more authentic seaman’s expression in song by reading “What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor”


        • English Folk-Chanteys, by Cecil James Sharp, 1914. “With Pianoforte Accompaniment, Introduction and Notes”.  This has been fairly recently republished by the Kessinger Publishing, LLC



        • Songs of the Sea, Rivers, Lakes & Canals by Jerry Silverman and published by Mel Bay.  This is still available and can be had via Amazon or Ebay.  Some very well known sea songs in here as well as some good but rarely heard songs you’ll want the lyrics and maybe music to.


  • Victoria’s Inferno ~ Songs of the Old Mills, Mines, Manufactories, Canals and Railways.  Edited by Jon Raven, 1978.  What a little gem, this paperback is!  Not in print currently to my knowledge but might be had through Amazon or Ebay, and a must for your library if your songs including reflections of the working class.

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  • Folk Songs of Old New England, collected and edited by Eloise Hubbard Linscott, 1939, Dover Books reprint, 1993.  Interesting and varied selection, great sources, and still available.



    • Songs of the Sea, by Stan Hugill… One of his several publications and one might still find copies hanging around.  It is interestingly presented and offers sea songs not only of England, Scotland, Ireland, US… But also France, Germany, Sweden, Italy… With decent translations although one determined to sing them in English may wish to rework them to fit the tune more naturally.



    • The Erotic Muse, by Ed Cray… “American Bawdy Songs”.  A very interesting study of the development of off-colour and raunchy folk songs not only applicable to sea music.  Simply a must for those interested in the “real feel” but not a tome to leave lying around when your mother comes to visit or for the kids to grab.  Still in print, it seems!


  • Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman, by William Main Doerflinger, is still available and a really good choice for your library.  It explains the connection between men who worked the ships and then went on to work the forests when not at sea, and explains the use of the term “shantyman”  in context of lumbermen rather than using it for those men at sea… One of the reasons why I insist upon “chanteys” for the sea-related work songs we do and reserve “shanties” for shacks by the sea or lumbering songs.

Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman

  •  Pocock’s Everlasting Songster is a long out of print source in my collection that had been published in 1800 as an unofficial source book of procedural manners for the British Navy – order of official toasts, proper songs to sing at the table, and the like.  Classic of song books of the ear, there are no melodies or even suggested ones for the songs therein, but the reader is left with the impression that the men at that time would have readily recognized the songs and jumped in with both feet even if they did not have all the words committed to memory – like the American National Anthem which most people pretty well know the first verse but rare is the person who knows anything further without a prompter – and this is a prompter.


One thought on “Books to Read

  1. Songbird

    Would you be interested in putting up recs for nautical literature/histories up here as well?



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