What is a Chapbook?
A chapbook is a small collection of poetry or prose, generally no more than about 48 pages. It’s typically saddle-stitched (like a pamphlet or magazine) and is a format well suited to smaller print-runs.
The tradition of chapbooks arose in the 16th century, as soon as printed books became affordable, and rose to its height during the 17th and 18th centuries. Chapbooks can be loosely defined as the small, unbound, paper-covered books that were carried and sold by itinerant peddlers known as “chapmen”. Many different kinds of ephemera and popular or folk literature were published as chapbooks, such as almanacs, children’s literature, folk tales, ballads, nursery rhymes, pamphlets, poetry, and political and religious tracts.
In the modern era a “Chapbook” is a term used to denote publications of up to about 48 pages, usually poetry or short stories, bound with some form of saddle stitch, though many are perfect bound, folded, or wrapped.
Chapbooks have taken on a new importance in the age of digital printing and “print-on-demand’. Chapbook publishing has become big business in the US, Canada, UK and Australia, with numbers of speciality chapbook publishing houses, many attached to universities and other institutions, springing up.
Modern chapbooks are considered to be the perfect medium for emerging or alternative writers and poets, and their relatively low cost of production and printing makes them ideal for bringing local poetry and prose to the populace as a whole. Potentially, first-time authors and poets could be less intimated by a 36-page book than a 300-page tome.