Guide to the Research Collections

- Section -- II: -- THE HUMANITIES
- Chapbooks, Fairy Tales, and Other Material

Chapbooks, Fairy Tales, and Other Material

The collection of English, Scottish, American, and foreign chapbooks numbers about 2,500 pieces ranging primarily from 1750 to about 1850.2 A chapbook may be defined as any printed material, from a broadside to a good-sized book, that was carried for sale by a chapman, or peddler. Many chapbooks were designed for children. An alphabetical card catalog of all the chapbooks in the Research Libraries is located in the Rare Book Division, where most of the collection is housed.

Also in the Rare Book Division is a first edition of Histoires ou contes du temps passé (1697) of Charles Perrault, perhaps better known as "Mère Loye" (Mother Goose). The Spencer Collection has a second edition of this famous work dated 1700 and a copy of the 1786 edition, which was the first with woodcuts, the earlier editions having been illustrated with engravings.

 The Life of Washington the Great (Augusta, Georgia, 1806), by Mason Locke (Parson) Weems, is a much sought-after item. The first four editions of this work were factual biography, but with the fifth the author rewrote the book, inventing the hatchet story and other "very curious anecdotes" which made him and his book famous. William Roscoe's The Butterfly's Ball (1807), which broke with the current tradition of the moral tale, is in the Spencer Collection, with a set of original drawings in pen and wash by the artist, William Mulready. Another nursery classic in the Spencer Collection is a first edition of Heinrich Hoffmann-Donner's Lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder (1845), more familiar as Struwwelpeter or Slovenly Peter. The rarer first edition of the book in English, entitled The English Struwwelpeter or Pretty Stories and Funny Pictures for Little Children (Leipsic [sic], 1848), is also in the Spencer Collection.

The Slavonic Division houses a number of early Russian children's books dating from 1740 to the mid-nineteenth century. Among them are bibliographical rarities and specimens of fine printing and illustration.

The Beadle Dime Novel collection was given to the library in 1922 by Dr. Frank P. O'Brien. It includes, among the varied series in which these novels were issued, 68 of the famous "original yellow back novels" which began to appear in 1850. Seventeen of the first 25 titles of this series are in the collection, including a first edition of Edward Ellis's celebrated Seth Jones, a story of the New York wilderness in 1785. There were 1,400 items in the collection, now housed in the Rare Book Division, which has not been greatly augmented in succeeding years.3 In 1963, C.V. Clare gave approximately 900 issues of the Diamond Dick Weekly and the Wild West Weekly, which serve to supplement the holdings of publications inspired by the Beadle imprints.

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