These small, inexpensive paper booklets, known as chapbooks, were the main
recreational reading matter for the adult poor and children of all classes
in the eighteenth century. Sold by traveling hawkers, or chapmen, the penny
books had up to twenty-four pages and often included crudely printed woodcuts.
Chapbooks were largely responsible in this period for keeping alive and
transmitting traditional fairy tales, folklore, and nursery rhymes, and
they served as a welcome alternative to the moralistic and didactic pamphlets
of the time. They also signaled the beginning of a children's literature
that accommodated a child's size and interests. The small pages matched
tiny hands and budgets, and the illustrations appealed to a youthful imagination.