Falvey Memorial Library’s newly discovered collection of dime novels, reprint libraries and other late-19th-century popular materials attracted over 50 scholars and fans of this genre to a conference on Monday, June 10. In addition to the academic conference, christened VuPop I, this find has inspired some exciting collection growth, new digital initiatives at the Library, physical and online exhibits, podcasts and social media sites.
Special Collections and Digital Library Coordinator and conference organizer, Michael Foight, states, “The rains outside couldn’t dampen the passion and enthusiasm of the conference goers! Some of the best speakers in the early American popular materials field engaged in an open and collaborative dialog on preservation and scholarship of dime novels, story papers and series fiction. Ranging in topic from early science fiction to works read during the American Civil War, I found this an invaluable gathering of experts who were uniformly able to clearly and earnestly advocate the merits of reading and studying early popular literature. The most frequent question asked was when was second year of the conference to be scheduled!”
The conference came to fruition due to the energetic contributions of Library Technology Development Specialist Demian Katz, who counts “lists of books” as one of his great loves and obsessions. His curiosity was piqued when he, Foight and Laura Bang, Digital and Special Collections curatorial assistant, discovered a cache of crumbling, popular publications in a dusty corner in the basement of the Falvey West Stacks. As Katz puts it, “When I see a number on a book, I have a compulsion to find out what the rest of the books in the series are.” As they investigated the value and provenance of their discovery, the answer to more and more of their questions was, “you should have known Eddie.” “Eddie,” or Edward LeBlanc, editor of Dime Novel Round-Up from 1952 to 1994, has become the namesake of the Katz’ latest project: dimenovels.org—a bibliography to establish a comprehensive online database of dime novels, story papers, reprint libraries and related materials.
There’s much more for you to explore about this fascinating genre, or as collector Joseph Rainone put it, “the literature of the common man.” Visit the Digital Library’s special online exhibit to begin your journey into dime novels and early mass-marketing publications.
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