Joseph Ritson was born in in humble circumstances at Stockton near Durham; in 1775 he settled in London where he practiced law at Gray's Inn and pursued his literary studies at the British Museum. Ritson was high bailiff of the liberty of the Savoy, which sorted with his antiquarian interests — he was of the first to study local poetry and popular legends. Ritson was notorious for his fierce attacks on the failings of Thomas Warton, Bishop Percy, and Edmond Malone. Formerly a Jacobite sympathizer, he became a republican during the French Revolution. Ritson died, impoverished and insane, after making a bonfire of MS. in his rooms at Gray's Inn.
The office of a Lord High Steward of England. 1776.
Tables, shewing the descent of the crown of England. 1778.
The Stockton jubilee: or Shakespeare in all his glory. 1781.
Observations on the three first volumes of the history of English poetry [by Thomas Warton]. 1782.
Remarks, critical and illustrative, on the text and notes of the last edition of Shakespeare. 1783.
A select collection of English songs. 3 vols, 1783.
The bishoprick garland, or Durham minstrel. 1784.
Gammer Gurton's garland, or the nursery Parnassus. 1784.
The Spartan manual, or tablet of morality. 1785.
The Yorkshire garland: being a curious collection of old and new songs concerning that famous county. 1788.
The digest of the proceedings of the Court Leet of the manor and liberty of the Savoy. 1789.
Ancient songs from the time of King Henry III to the revolution. 1790, 2 vols, 1829.
Pieces of ancient popular poetry. 1791.
The jurisdiction of the Court Leet. 1791.
The office of Constable. 1791.
Cursory criticisms on the edition of Shakespeare published by Edmond Malone. 1792.
The north-country chorister: an unparalled variety of excellent songs. 1792.
The English anthology. 3 vols, 1793-94.
Law tracts. 1794.
Scotish song. 2 vols, 1794.
Robin Hood: a collection of all the ancient poems, songs and ballads. 2 vols, 1795.
Poems on the interesting events in the reign of King Edward III ... by Laurence Minot, ed. Ritson. 1795.
Ancient English metrical romances. 3 vols, 1802.
Bibliographia poetica: a catalogue of English poets. 1802.
An essay on abstinence from animal food as a moral duty. 1802.
Northern garlands. 1810.
The office of a bailiff of a liberty, ed. J. Frank. 1811.
The Caledonian muse: a chronological selection. 1821.
The life of King Arthur from ancient historians, ed. J. Frank. 1825.
Memoirs of the Celts or Gauls. 1827.
Annals of the Caledonians, PIcts and Scots. 2 vols, 1828.
Letters from Joseph Ritson to Mr. George Paton. 1829.
Fairy tales, now first collected; to which are prefixed two dissertations. 1831.
The letters of Ritson, ed. J. Frank. 2 vols, 1833.