What is a chapbook, anyway?
So what the heck is a chapbook? I used to answer that ‘chap’ is a corruption of ‘cheap’ and it's just an inexpensively-produced book. But I've looked it up in Wikipedia and now I know the truth. Chapbooks evolved from broadsides, almost as soon as printed books were affordable. In England, they were often popular tales, ballads or tracts sold by "chapmen," itinerant peddlers. Well, not even OED knows for sure where the word comes from, but there is no doubt that chapbooks have always been a way to convey something important, or not so important, without
spending a lot of money.
What many people don't know is that chapbooks have a long and distinguished history. Many publishers, writers, and artists have used the form to create beautiful—and sometimes important—books. Chapbooks can be a real pleasure to look at and to read.
Nowadays, we might call anything less than about 40 pages a chapbook, and though chapbooks have been traditionally saddle-stitched (stapled through the binding) or hand-sewn, they can as easily be glued paperbacks, now that we have digital printing and small binding machines. So the distinction between a thin paperback and a chapbook is not so
At Hobblebush, we had one foray into making an artistic chapbook. It's an essay I wrote called "The Poem as a Marble," and I'd like to take this opportunity to peddle it. Check it out here.