CHAPBOOKS, popular literature in pamphlet form formerly hawked by chapmen or peddlers. Little attention has been paid to these in connection with Hebrew bibliography. Given the fragile nature of things, such flimsy, unbound publications tended to be thumbed out of existence, in many cases leaving no trace. It is probable, nevertheless, that from the 16th century chapbooks were produced by Jewish printers in Italy and the Balkans and hawked around the local fairs: few, however, have survived. In the 19th and 20th centuries very large numbers of such publications, crudely produced on the cheapest paper, were published in Eastern Europe for hawking by itinerant peddlers. These would consist in part of seasonal liturgical works (the *Haggadah before Passover, sometimes crudely illustrated; Penitential Prayers (Seliḥot) before New Year; the Book of Lamentations and kinot before the Ninth of *Av), sometimes accompanied by Yiddish translations for the benefit of the women and the ignorant. Other works produced in this fashion were accounts of the "wonders" of Isaac *Luria or *Israel b. Eliezer Ba'al Shem Tov, books of wondrous stories ("Mayse Bikhlekh"; see *Ma'aseh Book), mainly Yiddish dicta of *hasidic rabbis, model letter books, simple ethical works, and divination handbooks (Sefer Goralot). With the development of Yiddish literature, cheap novels, whether original or in translation, were distributed in the same fashion. Similar works were produced in Ladino in Salonika up to the 20th century, and in Judeo-Arabic both in North Africa and Iraq until the 1940s.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.