The Folklore Society (FLS) was founded in London, England in 1878 to study traditional vernacular culture, including traditional music, song, dance and drama, narrative, arts and crafts, customs and belief. The foundation was prompted by a suggestion made by Eliza Gutch in the pages of Notes and Queries.
William Thoms, the editor of Notes and Queries who had first introduced the term folk-lore, seems to have been instrumental in the formation of the society, and, along with G. L. Gomme, was for many years a leading member.
Some prominent members were identified as the "great team" in Richard Dorson's now long outdated 1967 history of British folklore, late-Victorian leaders of the surge of intellectual interest in the field, these were Andrew Lang, Edwin Sidney Hartland, Alfred Nutt, William Alexander Clouston, Edward Clodd and Gomme. Later historians have taken a deeper interest in the pre-modern views of members such as Joseph Jacobs. A long-serving member and steady contributor to the society's discourse and publications was Charlotte Sophia Burne, the first woman to become editor of its journal and later president (1909–10) of the society.
The society publishes, in partnership with Taylor and Francis, the journal Folklore in three issues per year, and since 1986 a newsletter, FLS News.
The journal began as The Folk-Lore Record in 1878, continued or was restarted as The Folk-Lore Journal, and from 1890 its issues were compiled as volumes entitled "Folk-Lore: A Quarterly Review of Myth, Tradition, Institution, & Custom. Incorporating The Archæological Review and The Folk-Lore Journal". Joseph Jacobs edited the first four annual volumes as the Quarterly Review, succeeded by Alfred Nutt. As the head of David Nutt in the Strand, Alfred Nutt was the publisher from 1890.
The Folklore Society Library has around 15,000 books and more than 200 serial titles (40 currently received) and is held at University College London Library. Its major strengths are in folk narrative and British and Irish folklore; there are also substantial holdings of east European folklore books, and long runs of Estonian and Basque folklore serials.
The Folklore Society Archives and Collections include folklore-related papers of G. L. Gomme and Lady Gomme, T. F. Ordish, William Crooke, Henry Underhill, Estella Canziani, George Galloway, Barbara Aitken, Margaret Murray, Katharine Briggs and others. The society's archives and collections are held at University College London's Special Collections.
The Folklore Society office is at The Warburg Institute, where it keeps a small collection of reference books and essential finding aids, including the card catalogue of all FLS library accessions up to 1993 (all FLS accessions after 1993 have been added to University College London Library's online catalogue. Their library is classified according to a modified form of the Garside classification scheme.
- Jacqueline Simpson (Editor), Steve Roud (Editor) (2003). A Dictionary of English Folklore. Oxford University Press
- Roper, Jonathan (2007). "Thoms and the Unachieved "Folk-Lore of England"". Folklore. 118 (2): 203–216. doi:10.1080/00155870701340035. ISSN 0015-587X.
- "Joseph Jacobs: A Sociological Folklorist" Gary Alan Fine Folklore Vol. 98, No. 2 (1987), pp. 183–193 abstract
- "Charlotte Sophia Burne: Shropshire Folklorist, First Woman President of the Folklore Society, and First Woman Editor of Folklore. Part 1: A Life and Appreciation", Gordon Ashman and Gillian Bennett, Folklore, Vol. 111, No. 1 (Apr., 2000), pp. 1–21
- HathiTrust Digital Library provides full views, apparently complete, for 1878 to 1922, the timespan in the public domain.
- Bonser, Wilfrid; Garside, Kenneth (1955). "The Classification of the Library of the Folk-Lore Society". Folklore. 66 (2): 267–281. doi:10.1080/0015587x.1955.9717469. JSTOR 258268.