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Chapbooks, Children, and Children's Literature

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Matthew Grenby



This article subjects to new scrutiny some of the long-standing assumptions about the relationship between children and chapbooks. Three questions in particular are considered. First, whether children really formed one of the primary audiences for chapbooks in early modern Britain. Second, whether, in the later eighteenth century, modern children’s literature developed out of, and in reaction to, the chapbook tradition. And third, how the chapbook designed especially for children, a new form that emerged in the early nineteenth century, relates to both the earlier chapbook tradition and to the new children’s literature that had by then begun to flourish. The article concludes that the arrival of a more respectable and differentiated children’s literature did not kill off the older chapbook tradition, but rather helped to sustain it. Although they retained a traditional chapbook format, these new ‘children’s chapbooks’ were a response to the increasing segmentation of print culture and a growing demand amongst the non-affluent for books especially for the young.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Grenby MO

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: The Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society

Year: 2007

Volume: 8

Issue: 3

Pages: 277-303

Date deposited: 18/04/2008

ISSN (print): 0024-2160

ISSN (electronic): 1744-8581

Publisher: Oxford University


DOI: 10.1093/library/8.3.277


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