The collection

The McGill Library's Chapbook Collection was created from chapbooks that have been identified in three special collections in the Rare Books and Special Collections Library. New titles are being acquired and added to the collection and this website will be updated on a regular basis.

The Sheila R. Bourke Collection of Children's Literature, a major research collection in children's literature, contains 412 chapbooks. The Children's Collection contains 321 chapbooks and the Main Collection yields the remaining 272 works. The collection has been catalogued and can be viewed in the McGill Library catalogue using the following link – &sortKey=TITLE&subscope=wz:12129::zs:37891&year=all&database=Z-wcorg&database=Xwc&clusterResults=false&databaseList=638,283 .

The majority of the imprints (858 titles) are from the 19th century, published in England and the Northeastern United States. There are 74 Scottish and 19 Irish chapbooks in the collection. Most of the collection's 18th century titles were published in London, England.

The chapbooks have been assigned one of eighteen subject categories. The categories are modeled on those used by Victor Neuberg (1964) in Chapbooks: A Bibliography of References to English & American Chapbook Literature of the 18th & 19th centuries and Tillinghast (1905) in Catalogue of English and American Chap-books and broadside ballads in Harvard College Library. Similar categories are used in the The Lilly Library Chapbook Collection.

The subject categories are: Books of Instruction; Crimes and Criminals; Dramas; Geographical Description, Local History and Natural History; Historical, Political and Biographical; Household Manuals; Jest Books, Humorous Fiction, Riddles; Legendary Romances, Fairy Stories and Folk Tales in Prose; Metrical Tales and Other Verse; Nursery Rhymes; Occult; Odd Characters and Strange Events; Prophecies; Prose Fiction; Religious and Moral; Song Books; and Travel and Adventure.


The work to create this website was undertaken by three McGill Library departments: Rare Books and Special Collections, Library Technology Services and Collection Services.

Collection Services creates MARC cataloguing records and verifies Dublin Core metadata elements. Library Technology Services digitizes the chapbooks, scans the images to create text files, and provides the infrastructure to transfer metadata. They also created and will maintain the website. Rare Books and Special Collections coordinates the project, provides access to the collection, and encodes the text into TEI XML.

The Interacting with Print Research Group has provided contextual essays for the website.

The Website:

The website was launched in August 2013 and contains digital facsimiles of approximately half of the chapbooks in the McGill Library’s Chapbook Collection.

New additions to the website will be made on a monthly basis going forward and announced on the Chapbook project blog.

The flapbook image used on the home page is the Metamorphosis chapbook. PN970 A63 S36 1836.


The digital images were prepared in house using a linhof book cradle and a Nikon D3X camera mounted on a camera copy stand. Image editing was performed using Adobe Photoshop CS4. ABBYY FineReader 11 Professional software was used to OCR and create the PDFs and text files. TEI encoding was done using <oXygen/> XML Editor 15.0. The viewer used to display the chapbooks is the BookReader interface provided by the Internet Archive.

Copyright statement:

All images on this website are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 –