London: W. Lucas, 1890.
1st Edition. Soft cover. Burrage, (Edwin) Harcourt (1839-1916). Quarter black leather over plain dark blue boards. Gilt stamped spine title. Original illustrated wrappers bound-in. Complete numbers 1 through 17. 544pp. Extra Coloured frontispiece & Title page added [W. Lucas as Publisher], n.d. [c. 1890]. With Full colour poster page of Robin Hood & Little John preserved at the end. Very Rare example of this early penny dreadful in about very good antiquarian condition. A rare complete run. 1 tear in page and back cover binding slightly open. Penny Dreadful [Dime Novels were the American version] was a term applied to nineteenth century British fiction publications, usually lurid serial stories appearing in parts over a number of weeks, each part costing a penny. The term, however, soon came to encompass a variety of publications that featured cheap sensational fiction, such as story papers and booklet "libraries." The Penny Dreadfuls were printed on cheap pulp paper and were aimed primarily at teenage boys from the working class, though there is some evidence that many girls read them as well. Penny Parts The penny part stories got underway in the 1830s, originally as a cheaper alternative for the working class adults, but by the 1850s the serial stories were aimed exclusively at teenagers. The stories themselves were reprints or sometimes rewrites of Gothic thrillers such as The Monk or The Castle of Otranto , as well as new stories about famous criminals. Some of the most famous of these penny part stories were The String of Pearls (which ostensibly introduced Sweeney Todd), The Mysteries of London (inspired by the French serial, The Mysteries of Paris) and Varney the Vampire. Highwaymen were popular heroes. Black Bess or the Knight of the Road, outlining the largely imaginary exploits of real-life highwayman Dick Turpin, continued for 254 episodes. Working class boys who could not afford a penny a week often formed clubs that would share the cost, passing the flimsy booklets from reader to reader. Other enterprising youngsters would collect a number of consecutive parts, then rent the volume out to friends. Penny Dreadfuls In 1866, Boys of England was introduced as a new type of publication, an eight page magazine that featured serial stories as well as articles and shorts of interests. It was printed on the same cheap paper, though sporting a larger format than the penny parts. Numerous competitors quickly followed, with such titles as Boys Leisure Hour, Boys Standard, Young Men of Great Britain, etc. As the price and quality of fiction was the same, these storypapers also fell under the general definition of Penny Dreadfuls (also known as Penny Bloods or Blood and Thunders in their early days). American dime novels were edited and rewritten for a British audience. These appeared in booklet form, such as the Boys First Rate Pocket Library. Frank Reade, Buffalo Bill and Deadwood Dick were all popular with the Penny Dreadful audience. Half-penny Dreadful In the mid-1890s a publisher, Alfred Harmsworth, decided to do something about what was widely perceived as the corrupting influence of the Penny Dreadfuls. He issued new story papers, The Half-penny Marvel, The Union Jack and Pluck, all priced at one half-penny. At first the stories were high-minded, moral tales, reportedly based on true experiences, but it was not long before these papers started using the same kind of material as the publications they competed against. A.A. Milne once said, "Harmsworth killed the penny dreadful by the simple process of producing the hapenny dreadfuller." Legacy Two phenomenally popular characters to come out of the "Penny Dreadfuls" were Jack Harkaway, introduced in the Boys of England in 1871, and Sexton Blake, who began in the Half-penny Marvel in 1893. Blake soon took over the lead spot in Union Jack and appeared in roughly 4,000 adventures, right up into the 1970s, a record only exceeded by Nick Carter and Dixon Hawke. Harkaway was also popular in America , and had many imitators. .
Item #33228 Price: US$1,555.00