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In the early nineteenth century this term described a pamphlet on any of a wide range of subjects – from sermons to sensational tales, often illustrated with woodcuts – sold not through bookshops but by "chapmen", who hawked their wares. In the later nineteenth century, the term began to acquire a contrived antiquarian air, and was used to designate a small book or pamphlet produced for collectors. Although the fake antiquarianism attached to the term has since faded, chapbooks in the sf field are usually produced by Small Presses as limited editions containing a short story, novella or one or more genre poems – although the short stories produced as individual volumes by Pulphouse Publishing were clearly intended to appeal to a readership beyond merely collectors. In this encyclopedia we have arbitrarily and for the sake of convenience used the abbreviation "chap" to designate any book of fewer than 100 pages. [JC]

Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 02:27 am on 20 August 2022.