Chapbooks were small, almost pocket-sized books , simply constructed from folded paper and normally sold uncut and unstitched. They were produced from about the 16th through to the late 19th century and sold by chapmen who would make the rounds with these small books along with seeds, spices, small tools and other necessities of life. Chapbooks slowly began to disappear during the second half of the nineteenth century as cheap novels, shilling shockers and penny dreadfuls became more popular with the reading public.
Chapbooks form part of the Rare Books and Special Collections at the State Library of New South Wales, Macquarie Street, Sydney. Many chapbooks are also available online via databases such as Early English Books Online and Eighteenth Century Collections Online.
Browse a list of all our databases, or find a particular one. You can filter by access type and by subject. You can access these eresources in the Library. For NSW residents most eresources, including the two listed above, can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, with a current library card.
Popular topics with chapbook readers were books about the weather, ballads, fortune telling, fairy tales and superstitions. See our catalogue record for The Old Egyptian fortune teller’s last legacy containing the signification of moles – handy to work out your personality according to where the moles are on your body.