Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Dime Novels

Dime novels are a 19-century American publishing phenomenon: short potboiler fiction, in lurid covers, that typically sold for ten cents. They are the antecedents of both modern paperbacks and comic books. The Ransom Center has, as a separate collection, over 850 of these early titles put out by Beadle & Adams, who originated the concept in 1860; the collection was formed by Frank P. O'Brien. Two copies of the scarce first dime novel, Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter by Mrs. Ann Stephens, begin the Center's holdings, which continue to the end of the century. Evocative ancillary items from this collection include a number of photographs of Buffalo Bill (William F. Cody), who wrote for the series; the mounted head of a buffalo shot by Cody; and the large Beadle & Adams, Publishers sign, which showed the way to their premises.

Many dime novels put out by other publishers can be found in various collections in the Center; the Ellery Queen collection is especially rich. Although a number of the authors wrote exclusively for the dime novel genre, others were also published in more traditional formats. These latter, especially, are well-represented in our general run of American 19th-century literature.

The individual titles in the Beadle & Adams dime novel collection have not been cataloged separately, but a draft finding aid is available.

 

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