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Chapbooks are works of popular literature, sold for a few pence, often by itinerant pedlars or "chapmen," which were in circulation from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Typical of chapbooks of this era, the stories are often condensed versions of well-known tales. Ranging in content from romances, adventure stories, fairy tales and moral tales, to songs and verses, most of the stories are accompanied by illustrations and engravings in both black and white and color, including some engravings by the Cruikshanks.
Princeton's collections include 36 bound volumes of chapbooks, each volume of which contains several of these popular 19th-century booklets. The volumes are located in the General Rare Books Department [(Ex) 3580.999]. The collection has several famous tales such as Cinderella, Robinson Crusoe, Jack the Giant Killer, and Red Riding Hood as well as lesser-known selections in the vein of Helen Beresford, Or the Child of Misfortune and Moral Tales in Verse: Calculated to Please and Instruct Young Children.
The Robert H. Taylor Collection has 9 volumes of chapbooks (approximately 175 items) at call number 19th-159. Most of these were acquired in 1976-1978 from John Brett-Smith. They include bound volumes with the bookplates of Charles Lilburn and A. Bernanrd C. K. Reeves. A packet of titles in alphabetical order written out by Brett-Smith and others together with some other provenance information is found in the Taylor curatorial documentary files.
Chapbooks are also found in the Cotsen Children's Library, and in the Graphic Arts Collection.