Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Frank P. O'Brien Collection of Beadle and Adams Dime Novels

A Preliminary Inventory of the Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Publisher: Beadle and Company
Title: Frank P. O'Brien Collection of Beadle and Adams Dime Novels
Dates: 1860-1890
Extent: 857 titles in 863 volumes
Abstract: Dime novels were a nineteenth-century American publishing phenomenon: short potboiler fiction, in lurid covers, that typically sold for ten cents. The Ransom Center's Dime Novels Collection contains 857 title in 863 volumes put out by publisher Beadle and Adams, who originated the concept in 1860. The collection was formed by Frank P. O'Brien.
Call Number: Library Collection LI-00001
Language: English
Access: Open for research



Acquisition: Purchase, 1967 (R3899b)
Processed by: John B. Thomas, III, 2006
Repository:

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center


Dime novels were a nineteenth-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's Dime Novels Collection contains 857 of these early titles put out by publisher Beadle and Adams, who originated the concept in 1860; the collection was formed by Frank P. O'Brien. The collection is arranged by publisher's series with the volumes arranged numerically within each series: I. Dime Novels; II. New Dime Novels; III. Pocket Novels; IV. Dime Libraries; V. Half Dime Libraries; VI. Pocket Library; VII. Lives of Great Americans; VIII. Twenty Cent Novels.
Two copies of the scarce first dime novel, Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter (1860) by Mrs. Ann Stephens, begin the Center's holdings, which continue to the end of the century. The individual volumes in the Dime Novels Collection have not been cataloged separately, but a list of authors and titles is included in this guide. Full details for each title can be found in Albert Johannsen's The House of Beadle & Adams (1950), and in The New York Public Library's The Beadle collection of dime novels given to the New York Public Library by Dr. Frank P. O'Brien. (1922). Call numbers were assigned using series and numbers from Johannsen's lists and missing numbers indicate gaps in the Center's collection.

Many dime novels put out by other publishers are located in other book collections at the Ransom Center; the Ellery Queen collection is especially rich. Although a number of authors wrote exclusively for the dime novel genre, others were also published in more traditional formats. These latter, especially, are well-represented in the Ransom Center's general run of American nineteenth-century literature.
Ancillary Beadle and Adams items acquired with this book collection were transferred to other units of the Ransom Center: 11 photographs of Buffalo Bill (William F. Cody), who wrote for the series; a snuff box, a black wooden walking stick, and the mounted head of a buffalo shot by Cody; 12 engraved steel plates used for printing cover illustrations; and the large Beadle & Adams publisher's sign, which showed the way to their premises.