'Little Story Books' and 'Small Pamphlets' in Edinburgh, 1680-1760: the Making of the Scottish Chapbook

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Abstract / Description of output

This article considers the development of the ‘chapbook’ in Scotland between 1680 and 1760. Chapbook is here defined as a publication using a single sheet of paper, printed on both sides, and folded into octavo size or smaller. The discussion focuses on production in Edinburgh which at this time was the centre of the Scottish book trade. While very few works were produced in these small formats in the city before the last quarter of the seventeenth century, the three generations thereafter witnessed their emergence as an important part of the market. This chapbook literature included ‘penny godlies’ and ‘story books’, poems and songs, which had long been staples of the London trade. Indeed, much output north of the border comprised titles pirated from the south. It is suggested, however, that an independent repertoire of distinctively Scottish material also began to flourish during this period which paved the way for the heyday of the nation's chapbook in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Edinburgh trade is shown to be much more extensive than has been appreciated hitherto. Discovery of the testament of Robert Drummond, the Edinburgh printer who died in 1752, reveals that he produced many such works that are no longer extant. It demonstrates not only that a number of classic English chapbooks were being reprinted in Scotland much earlier than otherwise known, but also that an indigenous Scottish output was well established before the reign of George III.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-230
JournalThe Scottish Historical Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


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