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Question: What is a chapbook?

  • According to to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is defined as the following:
    Pronunciation: 'chap-buk'; Function: noun; Etymology: chapman + book; Date: 1798 : a small book containing ballads, poems, tales, or tracts.

  • According to John Marshall of Open Books (otherwise known as J.W.):
    "... As for the chapbook issue, I have some guesses. I figure they always are one signature, meaning they don't have more pages than can be held together by one piece of thread or one staple. It's a cheap definition because I've seen a chapbook where someone sewed each sheet in separately so maybe there were 16 pages and four pieces of thread holding it together. I still call that a chapbook. Anyway, small is important. I remember hearing ... about how printers, some centuries back, would hang printed sheets on a line and fellows (chaps) would sell them to passersby. Also, think of a chapter in a prose book. It's like chapters being sold individually, except that the book can't be put together in any coherent way because the chapters don't directly relate to each other. Enough speculation. The true answer is I don't know what distinguishes a chapbook from a book book, but I think I know 'em when I see 'em."