From the Authors Note (p. v):About thirty years since, several of The Bab Ballads (most of which had appeared, from time to time, in the pages of Fun) were collected by me, and published by Messrs. George Routledge and Sons. This volume passed through several editions, and, in due course, was followed by a second series under the title of More Bab Ballads, which achieved a popularity equal to that of its predecessor.
Subsequently, excerpts were made from these two volumes, and, under the title of Fifty Bab Ballads, had a very considerable sale- but I soon discovered that in making the selection for this volume I had discarded certain Ballads that were greater favourites with my readers than with me. Nevertheless this issue was followed by many editions, English and American, of Bab Ballads, More Bab Ballads, and Fifty Bab Ballads, to the no little bewilderment of such of the public as had been good enough to concern themselves with my verses.
So it became desirable (for our own private ends) that this confusion should be definitely cleared up- and thus it came to pass that a reissue of the two earlier collections, in one volume, was decided upon.Some seven years since, I collected the most popular of the songs and ballads which I had written for the series of light operas with which my name is associated, and published them under the title of Songs of a Savoyard. It recently occurred to me that these songs had so much in common with The Bab Ballads that it might be advisable to weld the two books into one.
This is, briefly the history of the present volume.I have always felt that many of the original illustrations to The Bab Ballads erred gravely in the direction of unnecessary extravagance. This defect I have endeavoured to correct through the medium of the two hundred new drawings which I have designed for this volume. I am afraid I cannot claim for them any other recommendation.W.S. Gilbert.Grims Dyke, Harrow Weald,4th December 1897