A zealous literary antiquary and critic, was indefatigable in his labours to illustrate English literature, particularly the neglected ballad strains of the nation. He published in 1783 a valuable collection of English songs; in 1790, Ancient Songs, from the Time of Henry III. to the Revolution; in 1792, Pieces of Ancient Popular Poetry; in 1794, A Collection of Scottish Songs, in 1795, A Collection of all the Ancient Poems, etc. Relating to Robin Hood, etc. Ritson was a faithful and acute editor, profoundly versed in literary antiquities, but of a jealous irritable temper, which kept him in a state of constant warfare with his brother collectors. He was in diet a strict Pythagorean, and wrote a treatise against the use of animal food.
Joseph Ritson, son of Joseph Ritson and Jane Gibson, was born October 2, 1752, at Stockton-upon-Tees, Durham.