Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ball State Libraries Expand Chapbook Collection

The recently cataloged Historic Chapbook Collection is now available to students, faculty, and researchers in the Archives and Special Collections Research Center. The collection offers a rich and valuable resource for the study of nineteenth-century popular culture, literacy, children’s literature and education, and the history of the book.

The collection of 173 chapbooks published in the United States and England between 1812 and 1898 includes many items contributed by Elisabeth Ball and formerly held in the Educational Resources Center, as well as 50 chapbooks purchased by Special Collections through the Martin and Helen Schwartz Fund. Their subjects range from moral instruction to the ABCs to advertisements for patent medicines and soap. Many have colored paper covers, some are hand sewn, and others contain hand-colored illustrations.

Dr. Frank Felsenstein, Reed D. Voran Honors Distinguished Professor of Humanities, will use the collection this Spring 2007 in his Honors 390 and English 650 Seminar in Literature course, “From Gutenberg to Ben Franklin: The Impact of the Hand Press,” an intensive course in book history that examines the dissemination of knowledge and focuses particularly on the cultural impact of print.

Dr. Felsenstein explained the importance of the Historic Chapbook Collection for teaching and learning: “During the 18th and 19th centuries, chapbooks were often a child's first encounter with the printed word. The popular tales they re-told are descendants of an oral tradition, and with their combination of simple woodcuts and elementary text, chapbooks acted as doors to literacy. They are also miniature icons of 18th and 19th century popular culture. It will be interesting for students to explore some of the similarities and differences in the content of these tiny books as they made their appearance in Great Britain and the emerging United States.”

To provide students and researchers with easy access to these valuable historical resources, the Historic Chapbook Collection will be digitized and made available through the Digital Media Repository, http://libx.bsu.edu. A project of the University Libraries, the Digital Media Repository will make the collection available 24/7 for teaching, learning, and research by Ball State students and faculty and the academic community at large.

The Ball State community will have an opportunity to view firsthand this fascinating and important educational collection through a forthcoming exhibit in the Archives and Special Collections Research Center.

For more information, contact Jane Gastineau, Ball State University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections Supervisor, JEGastineau@bsu.edu, (765) 285-5078.


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