Women and the World of Dime Novels

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All the dime novels discussed in this exhibition can be found in the American Antiquarian Society dime novel collection. The collection includes almost 1,000 examples of dime fiction, both in volumes bound by former owners and as loose paperbacks in their original wrappers. The AAS holdings represent a large selection of the publications of Beadle and Adams, as well as many of the minor publishing houses such as George Munro; Elliot, Thomes & Talbot; Hilton & Co.; Richmond and Company; and R.M. DeWitt. Cataloging of the collection is in progress with each item receiving detailed rare book cataloging. Only a handful of dime novels have received modern reprints, and many only exist as scarce or unique copies in the hands of collectors or in the holdings of rare book libraries. The following resources provide a more in-depth examination of the history of dime novels and the AAS dime novel collection:

This exhibition was born from a cataloging project. When I was assigned to catalog our collection of dime novels, I knew very little about them. In order to describe the novels properly in our catalog records, I immersed myself not only in their complicated publishing history, but also in the novels themselves. I was immediately struck by their romantic and melodramatic plotlines, as well as the wide array of colorful characters, especially the women. The goal of this exhibit is to highlight some of these female characters, and it is an introduction, rather than a comprehensive guide, to an often underappreciated corner of American literary history.

Women and the World of Dime Novels was conceived and curated by Brenna Bychowski, a cataloger in the North American Imprints Program at the American Antiquarian Society. Her thanks are due especially to Alan Degutis, for generously allowing time to complete the exhibit and for the original introduction to the dime novel collection, and to Molly O'Hagan Hardy, for her gracious editorial assistance and unending moral support.