Guide to the Research Collections
The collection of English, Scottish, American, Italian, and other European chapbooks in the Research Libraries numbers 2,650 pieces, ranging from the fifteenth century to about 1850, and provides strong supplementary materials for the study of folklore and folk traditions.7
Chapbooks include anything from broadsides to full-sized books sold by chapmen, peddlers, hawkers, or flying-stationers. Many chapbooks were designed for children. The Spencer Collection has over the years acquired a strong collection of Italian rappresentazione
and other popular tracts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Rappresentazione
are chapbooks, usually of four to six leaves, reproducing miracle and other sacred plays given on certain saint's days. The contemporary popular tracts consist of frottola, noveli,
romances, etc. illustrated with woodcuts. About 150 items of this nature join the other rich holdings of material in the Rare Book Division and the Central Children's Room of the Branch Libraries. An alphabetical card catalog of all single chapbooks in the Rare Book Division is located there; other items in the Research Libraries are entered under the heading "Chapbooks," with geographical designations, in the Rare Book Division public catalog. Since 1935 the collections have been substantially augmented by gifts and purchases.