A member of the successful music publishing family, William Chappell became a well-known ‘gentleman scholar’, and the leading historian of popular music in his day. He founded the Musical Antiquarian Society (with G. A. Macfaren and Edward Francis Rimbault) in 1840, and published A Collection of National English Airs (2 vols, 1838–40). This was revised and expanded into his most enduring work, Popular Music of the Olden Time (2 vols., 1855–9). Later folk song collectors such as Cecil Sharp were dismissive of Chappell's work because he paid little attention to traditional tunes, but his thorough knowledge of popular music and his high standard of scholarship make his books indispensable for tracing the history of printed songs and tunes. A revised edition of Popular Music, edited by H. E. Wooldridge (1893), was not successful.
Introduction to the Dover reprint of Popular Music (1965);Claude M. Simpson, The British Broadside Ballad and its Music (1966).