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Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Scottish Chapbooks

Scottish Chapbooks. There has been no book-length study of Scottish chapbooks for over a century. Although they represent a great untapped treasure-trove of history, literature and popular culture, chapbooks have been incomprehensibly and disgracefully ignored. In 1874 John Fraser wrote that it was impossible to understand the history of Scotland or the character of her people during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries without studying these ‘vulgar, but graphic and intensely Scottish productions’, which, in his opinion, could be ranked with such masterpieces as the humorous narratives in The Canterbury Tales. As this selection will demonstrate, however, not all chapbooks were necessarily humorous.

The chapbooks are gloriously diverse in content and present an irresistible cacophony of social discourse, ranging from the flippant to the portentous, the swooningly romantic to the bluntly pejorative. These voices from the past are brash, banal, fun, fresh and revealing, often reflecting the sort of flair, wit, insight, sensitivity – and mindlessness – that these days are responsible for so much of our television programming and tabloid newspaper content. Folk in Print: Scotland's Chapbook Heritage. Best Scottish Books.

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