chapbook, one of the pamphlets formerly sold in Europe and America by itinerant agents, or "chapmen." Chapbooks were inexpensive—in England often costing only a penny—and, like the broadside, they were usually anonymous and undated. The texts were similar to those of current tabloid newspapers and therefore reveal much about the popular taste of the 16th, 17th, and 18th cent. The term is occasionally used to refer to old manuscripts showing national character through the use of vernacular expressions.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.