As Poets House continues to build its poetry library—now at 70,000 items—it has also begun to preserve rare print materials by creating digital facsimiles. By creating digital scans of delicate, out of print materials, we will preserve and protect important literary work and expand access when we make them available on our website.
Among the first print materials to be digitized are poetry chapbooks. Over the past 30 years, Poets House has gathered the largest open-stack collection of limited-edition poetry chapbooks in the United States. Poetry chapbooks are poetry books that are small—smaller in page number and print run (and sometimes physical size) than a standard poetry collection. Though chapbooks have been an essential publication form for over a hundred years, they have often been published and distributed by poets who start their own presses on shoe string budgets, limiting circulation and making it difficult for the public to find them anywhere else than at Poets House.
While the vast majority of Poets House’s limited edition chapbooks are available to the public in open stacks, Poets House also has rare, fragile chapbooks that are preserved in our special collections archive. We invite you to explore one of the strongholds of our special collections: Chapbooks of the “Mimeo Revolution,” a period stretching from the early 1960s through the mid-1980s when micro-presses proliferated and published chapbooks of some of the most innovative poetry of the time. Throughout 2017, we will be launching new highlights from this period each month, providing the opportunity to virtually flip through the pages of these rare chapbooks, discover commentary that contextualizes each chapbook, and experience multimedia recordings.