Robert Burns Chapbooks
from the G. Ross Roy Collection
This project makes available one of the distinctive forms by which the poetry of Robert Burns became known, in Burns’s own time through into the early nineteenth century. His poems and songs circulated among his contemporaries through many channels, not only in the well-known early editions in book form, but also in manuscripts and letters, through oral transmission, in newspapers, in song, in formal musical publication, and through extended quotation in reviews. Among all these formats, however, chapbooks (the small pamphlets sold at markets and hawked from farm to farm by traveling chapmen in backpacks) have the best claim to be the literature of ordinary folk and a major route through which Burns was encountered by ordinary people.
This collection comprises full digital facsimiles of all chapbooks from the G. Ross Roy Collection, up through 1830, that contain one or more poems or songs by Robert Burns. Linked to this page also are an introductory description, “What Is a Chapbook?”, with diagrams explaining the chapbook format; digital versions of two important earlier essays by Prof. G. Ross Roy, “Some Notes on Scottish Chapbooks” (1974) and “Robert Burns and the Brash and Reid Chapbooks of Glasgow” (1992); and a list of selected print resources about chapbooks.