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Rediscovering Chapbooks
In the 1600's most cultured socialites considered chapbooks vulgar. These 'flimsy' booklets were often sold in less than reputable establishments and contained a variety of less than quality poetry, stories, ballads and political dissent. Often filled with spelling mistakes, factual blunders and little in the way of quality assurance these chapbooks often connected with the uncultured alone. Today you will find several colleges that are working to collect copies of aging chapbooks. International universities have collections of hundred and even thousands of these manuscripts. What are chapbooks? This type of literature provides a relatively small grouping of thoughts or poetry in a booklet form that is generally unacceptable in traditional book markets. The length of a chapbook rarely exceeds 50 pages and can be assembled using a home printer and publishing software or using an office supply store that provides copying services. Chapbook History In the past these booklets were sold by peddlers to others who enjoyed the simplified nature of the work. Some chapbooks were purchased if only because paper was scarce and the pages of the chapbook were used to wrap food items for transport. Chapbooks have historically received very little respect and ultimately faded away for a time with the advent of mass produced newspapers and other periodicals. In many respects historical chapbooks are now considered desirable folk art and are appreciated in ways the original authors would find surprising. Chapbooks Today In the twenty-first century chapbooks are seeing a prominence they have not seen in the past. Today chapbooks are successfully used to promote an author?s poetry or short stories. They are marketed online and in specialty shops. Some chapbook developers have used the work for philanthropic purposes while others have funded group projects and the distribution of personal writings. A fundraising effort for families involved in the Sego Mining Disaster in West Virginia saw a poetry chapbook used to provide needed finances for those dealing with loss. With the advent of easy-to-use publishing programs and printers who can mass-produce a chapbook at reasonable prices, there are more people than ever looking to impact others through the distribution of chapbooks. Chapbook Future Some chapbooks may be downloadable through PDF technology while other writers of chapbooks may move solidly toward ebook technology in the future in an effort to distribute their chapbooks thus avoiding paper distribution entirely. It is safe to presume that the time-honored tradition of chapbooks will see these little publications delight, encourage and challenge readers for centuries to come.