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( Originally Published 1913 )
Here are some advertisements of Chap Books, which I quote from various second-hand booksellers' catalogues, to show the kind of small old volume which is in demand.
1. Chap Books. - "True Fortune Teller," " Fortunes of Nigel," " Gipsy's Present," " Miller and His Men," " General Receipt Book," " Copland's Picture Book," "Thumb's Alphabet," etc., bound in 1 vol., 8vo, curious plates, mostly coloured, half morocco neat, 125. N.D.
2. Histories of Sir R. Whittington, of the Valiant London Prentice, of Don Bellianis of Greece, of the Noble Marquis of Salus, of Argalus and Parthenia, of the Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, of Tom Long, a Wedding-Ring, Negro Servant, Shoe-maker's Glory, " History of Jack of Newbury," bound in 1 vol., sm. 8vo, numerous woodcuts on text, half morocco neat, 10s. London, etc. N.D.
3. "Arabian Nights' Entertainments,"Limerick, 1813.-" History of the Tales of the Fairies." Frontispiece. Dublin, 1814. " Death of Abel." From the German of Gessner. Limerick, 1814. -Ribadineri (P.). " Life and Death of the most glorious Virgin Mary," etc. Frontispiece. Limerick, 1814.-" Daily Devotions. Or the most profitable manner of hearing Mass." Many cuts. Limerick, 18i9. The 5 in a vol., 12mo, calf, extra gilt back. 24s.
4. "Arraigning and Indicting of Sir John Barleycorn."-" Mother Bunch's Closet new broke open."-" Death and Burial of Cock Robin."-" Art of Courtship, or, The School of Love."-" Famous and memorable History of Chevy-Chace."-" Art of Cookery made easy."-" Fairy Stories."-" New Riddle Book."-" History of Tommy Potts." Together, 9 chap books in a vol., sm. 8vo, many crude woodcuts, half calf, Lichfield, 2 guineas.
5. "History of Argalus and Parthenia," " History of the unfortunate lovers, Hero and Leander."-First (and Second) part of " The Merry Piper " (misbound).-" History of Dr. John Faustus." -" Bluebeard, or Female Curiosity."-" History of Robinson Crusoe."-" History of Montelion."-" History of the Seven Wise Masters of Rome."-" Simple Simon's Misfortunes."-" Diverting Humours of John Ogle." Together, 11 chap books in a vol., many crude woodcuts, half green morocco, Warrington, 37s. 6d.
Collected To-Day. A good many of my readers, on the wrong side of fifty, will remember little books of that sort being current when they were very young. The little books cost a penny, twopence, threepence, or sixpence originally ; to-day they may cost you four or five shillings each, bought singly. The collections mentioned above bound up together these paperbacked tracts, toy-books, and fortune-telling books which formed the bulk of the chap-book class. The separate volumes, cloth or calf-bound, cost a shilling apiece or so, originally. A few of them lie before me as I write. Here is " The Little Grey Mouse, or the History of Rosabelle and Paridel, illustrated with numerous wood engravings. Wellington, printed and sold by Houlston and Son. Sold also by all other booksellers, 1815." Here, again, is " The Hermit, or the Unparalleled sufferings and surprising adventures of Philip Quarll, an Englishman, who was lately discovered upon an uninhabited Island in the South Sea. With an elegant frontispiece. A new edition, London. Anno 1796."
Some Famous Chap Books to Look for.-John Newbery, of the Toy Book Manufactory, at the Bible and Sun, E.C., was the most famous publisher of chap books, and any that bear his name are particularly well worth acquiring. " Goodie Two Shoes " was written by no less an author than Oliver Goldsmith himself. Then there was Mrs. Trimmer's " Fabulous Histories, or the Robins." Also " The Butterfly's Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast," " Tommy Trip " (by Goldsmith), the " Great A and Bouncing B Toy Book." " The History of John Cheap the Chapman," " Parley the Porter," and " Stephen of Salisbury Plain," were all written by Hannah More. Then there are the " Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green," " Guy, Earl of Warwick," the " Wise Men of Gotham," the " Seven Champions of Christendom," " Robin Hood's Garland," " Mother Shipton's Life and Prophecies," " St. George and the Dragon," " Jack Horner," " Robin Hood and Little John," " Valentine's Gift," " Primrose Prettyface and her Scholars," " Tom Hickathrift," and so forth. Even an incomplete list would more than fill this page.
Why They are Collected.-People collect chap books because they are old, have become rare, and will never be produced again, though some of them have been facsimiled. Other people collect them for the sake of the early woodcuts which they invariably containrough woodcuts, some by such famous hands as those of a Bewick, Blake, and Cruikshank, mind you. Some of the early books were illustrated by blocks that dated back to Caxton himself. Anything quainter than the usual woodcuts can hardly be imagined. If you wish to see what the chap book was at the beginning and at the height of its popularity, there are two public collections that may be inspected. One is at the British Museum, and the other is at the Bodleian.A great number of the old wood-blocks remain extant, and a collector of chap books usually contrives to acquire a few of them also. In the year 1890 Mr. Arthur Reader published a book about chap books containing several hundred pictures reprinted from the old wood-blocks themselves.
The Origin of the Name.-Cheap-chep-chapchapman-chapman's book-chap book-that is the genesis of the title. A chapman was a cheap man; a chap book was a cheap book. The packmen of the eighteenth century carried in their wallets cheap calendars, fortune-telling books, weather almanacs, and toy books. They bought their stock from printers in London, Banbury, Newcastle, Edinburgh, and so forth ; some collectors acquire only the books printed in a certain town, or by a certain firm. " Running stationers " and " flying stationers " were other names for the chapmen. Last Speeches on the Scaffold, and Dying Confessions in Prison, with ballads and the like, were included in their packs. Francis Power, of St. Paul's Churchyard, London, produced a " Juvenile Trials for Robbing Orchards and Telling Fibs." The chap book was usually a very moralising production.
I fancy the price of these quaint little volumes will appreciate. There is one of them, an American edition of " Goody Two Shoes," which was published by Isaiah Thomas, at Worcester, Mass., U.S.A., for which thirty-six shillings has been paid at a London auction.