19th Century Printing: The Chap-Book

April 4, 2013

A chapman was an Old English term used to describe a person who went door to door selling cheap goods. Among them were small books, called “chap-books”, that were often little more than stitched together pamphlets containing essays and poems with a few wood-carved illustrations. The McGill Library in Montreal has been running a digital scanning project for some time now to record many of these old texts.

In the late 1890s (1894 to be exact) a publishing house in Cambridge, MA started to issue a series of books called The Chap-Book that kept much of the same spirit, using inexpensive paper stock and selling them for 5 to 10 cents apiece. The artwork also had much of the same flavor, as well as small linear sketches and simple coloring to maintain that wood-cut look. Some of the regular artists who appeared in them were Fred Hazenplug and Fred Richardson. After relocating to Chicago, the publishers, H.S. Stone & Company, stopped their publication in 1898.

hazenplug-frank1_chap96 hazenplug-frank5_chap95
richardson-fred3_chap96 richardson-fred4_chap96

What I’ve found particularly enjoyable about these books is not just the content of their artists and writers, but the advertising they included within. They have led me to names of other artists and publishing houses that have been swallowed up by time. You can view many of these books at Archive.org.


One comment

  1. Thanks David, you’re a fountain of knowledge. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: