Much research work has been committed to establishing the literary and textual history, evolution and cultural background of Burns's texts, and many sustained studies and editions now stand as landmarks of scholarly endeavour. This paper proposes that there is an important sociological and economic element of the book history of the posthumous writings of Burns and to a lesser extent, Tannahill, that has yet to receive its deserved attention. The essay addresses the question as to how the compositions of Burns and (other poets) became available to those of limited income, particularly during the first third of the nineteenth century. This availability is elucidated and traced through their appearances in a major form of popular print in Britain – the chapbook. Quite how the chapbook printers addressed matters of authorship are considered, as are the problems associated with the publication of variant titles and textual content of the Scottish poets' works. The ambiguities and challenges caused by the very song titles adopted by the printers are delineated: some material that may appear to have been by Burns is not his work at all. The falling away of the chapbook form from (roughly) the 1830s, and the absorption of Burns's work into the 'cheap reprint' movement from the mid-nineteenth century is outlined.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 59-79
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.