We use cookies to improve your experience, some are essential for the operation of this site.
Treasure 19: Chapbooks
of 1

Treasure 19: Chapbooks

Historic Documents
Léa Moreau
This item is active and ready to use
Treasure 19: Chapbooks
Historic Documents
Treasure 19: Chapbooks
Chapbooks were a form of popular literature produced in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Text was printed on both sides of a large sheet of paper which was then folded repeatedly to create a booklet of 8, 12, 24, or 32 pages, approximately 5 inches by 3 inches in size. The title page had a woodcut illustration which was not necessarily linked to the content of the chapbook but could be selected from illustrations already available in the printer's premises.
Their content was varied but included ballads, songs, folktales, jokes and riddles. They were produced in large numbers and favourite texts would be reprinted over and over again and even by different printers.

In rural areas and at markets and fairs, these little booklets were sold for a halfpenny or a penny by itinerant pedlars or chapmen who carried packs containing bootlaces, needles, thread, ribbons and other trinkets to appeal to their customers. The word "chap" probably derives from the Old English "ceapian" meaning to bargain or trade.

"Tullochgorum" is one of a series of 21 ballad chapbooks, each of 8 pages, printed by John Cumming, a merchant in Hatton of Fintray, about 10 miles north of Aberdeen. He had learnt the merchant business in Aberdeen but, when he returned to Fintray, he also set up a printing press. He sometimes included the music, as here, but for other ballads he only named a tune with which his readers would already have been familiar.

His other printing work included Alexander Watt "The Early History of Kintore" published in 1865 and James Dalgardno "Notes on the Parish of Slains and Forvie in the Olden Days" in 1876.
He died in January 1900 and is buried in the local churchyard.

The popularity of chapbooks declined as other forms of literature, including newspapers and magazines, became more accessible. The physical nature of these unbound flimsy pamphlets has meant that chapbooks have not survived in large numbers but Local Studies has a complete set of those printed by John Cumming bound together as one volume.

Collections of other Scottish chapbooks survive in various libraries and are becoming more available through online cataloguing and indexing while academic researchers are studying the role played by these small publications in their social and literary world.
Song, Literature
Aberdeen Local Studies
Other Items Like This
Treasure 69: Mrs Elmslie's Institution Plans by Archibald Simpson, 1837