Duck Duck Book

13 – history of street literature
02.17.2005, 12:01 am
Filed under: literature

The history of street literature; the story of broadside ballads, chapbooks, proclamations, news-sheets, election bills, tracts, pamphlets, cocks, catchpennies, and other ephemera / Leslie Shepard.
Detroit : Singing Tree Press, [1973].
also: Newton Abbot : David and Charles, 1973.
[MCL call number: 820.9 S547h; two copies, no holds]

I read this book many many years ago, and my memory for text is poor, so I cannot give you a lot of detail about its contents.  But I can report very much enjoying the story that is told in the course of recounting this bit of literary history.  Shepard argues in the first chapter (which I have read recently!) that literary historians have rudely ignored all but the most elite literature in their tendency to focus on books.  In the first 400 years after the European revolution in printing, only wealthy people were able to afford books, but lots of people read or were read to.  It’s just that what they read were posters, broadsheets, chapbooks, and other inexpensive works.  The History of Street Literature attempts to tell the story of this bit of England’s cultural legacy (for Shepard focuses on the history of street literature in England, with some attention to the rest of Britain).  And on the way repeats a lot of scandal, gossip, political dissent, and folklore, with nice black and white reproductions of broadsides, chapbooks, and the like to illustrate.


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