Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Chapbooks Cataloged in Ball State University Libraries' Online Public Catalog

The University Libraries’ cataloging personnel recently completed cataloging a collection of 173 chapbooks that were published in the United States and England. These small booklets of children’s literature have publishing dates ranging from 1812 through 1898, and one is a 1944 reprint of a book that was published in 1786. The collection is held in the University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections Research Center.

The covers and pages of chapbooks generally are made of the same paper weight. They were typically printed on a single sheet of paper that was folded to make eight (quarto), 16 or 24 (duodecimo) pages. When published, they were inexpensive to produce and sold door-to-door, at fairs and markets by traveling chapmen, who were the itinerant peddlers hired by printers. This may be why the books are called chapbooks.

Contrasted with the large, colorfully illustrated books published for children today, most of these early booklets are small, measuring about four inches, and could fit into a pocket. They include prose and poetry detailing topics about conduct of a moral life, history although not always accurate in detail, etiquette, animals, folklore, and all manner of short texts. The illustrations are few and small, generally created by rough woodcuts and without interesting detail.

Despite their shortcomings by today’s standards, the chapbooks provided reading material for children at a time when libraries were emerging from private to community supported institutions. As early as 1827 members of the Lexington, Massachusetts town meeting voted to purchase a library for the youth of the town and to employ a librarian to manage it. The Boston Public Library opened in 1854.

Chapbooks flourished in the 16th to the 18th centuries and are making a comeback today. Over the past 20 years, their production has been revitalized due in part to the many low-cost copy centers and the interest in self-publishing especially poetry. Modern chapbooks are found in independent bookstores, literary centers, and libraries. http://ShadowPoetry.com advertises that it will publish chapbooks in 5.5 x 8.5-inch pages and encourages genres in “poetry, short stories, personal journals, quotes/sayings, cookbooks of favorite recipes, song lyrics, essays, address books, holiday gift lists and artist sketches.”

An online search for “chapbooks” finds many sites for publishers and contests. The Center for Book Arts sponsors an annual chapbook competition that its website points out attracts manuscripts from 600 to 1,000 poets each year.

Items in the Historic Chapbook Collection will be digitized and made accessible 24/7 for teaching, learning, and research through the Digital Media Repository, http://libx.bsu.edu, a project of the University Libraries.

For more information, contact Cecilia Bond, University Libraries’ Head of Metadata and Copy Cataloging, CBond@bsu.edu, (765) 285-3353.


Post a Comment

<< Home