An Introduction to Chapbooks
by Barry McKay
Chapbooks are small publications of a popular nature (often poems or stories) common from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. They get their name from the chapmen who hawked them door to door along with other small items such as ribbons, laces, and pins from a tray slung across the shoulders.

This book is based on the illustrated lecture that the author gave first to the Manchester Bibliographical Society and then, in a revised form, to the Friends of the St Bride Printing Library to accompany an exhibition he curated on the subject.

Clare Melinsky's linocut illustration


Barry begins with an amusing introduction in which he focuses on the role of chapbooks in disseminating a common culture through cheap literature. He follows that with a series of case studies, concentrating on printer-publishers working in the far North West of England.

The book is forty pages, including detailed end notes for further reference, and handsomely illustrated with facsimile title-pages, woodcuts, and two relevant illustrations taken from engravings done in Bewick's workshop. There is also, in a pocket in the back of the book, a small chapbook printed on handmade paper specially commissioned from Griffen Mill. This 'Garland of Excellent Old Songs' has an illustrated front page, an interpretation by Clare Melinsky of one found in an eighteenth-century chapbook.

The edition of 250 signed and numbered copies has been printed on archival quality paper in Bell type, and bound by hand in cloth and paper over boards.

Last Updated: 2 June 2004 by K.Whalen