Mysticism and fortune-telling were popular subjects for the publishing industry in the early 1800s.
The ancient German legend of Dr Faust – the scholar who sells his soul to the devil in return for unlimited earthly knowledge – was popularised in England by Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593). Its occult topic and lurid nature made it a frequent subject for early 19th-century ‘chapbooks’: cheaply produced booklets often sold on the streets.
This 24-page version of the Faust story was published in 1838 by Thomas Richardson of Derby, a prolific producer of cheap reading matter. It came complete with a colour illustration of Lucifer confronting Faust to collect his side of the bargain. The list of attention-grabbing keywords on the title page (‘remarkable life ... raise the devil ... magical powers ... horrible death’) shows that marketing aggression is not solely a modern phenomenon.
- Article by:
- Ruth Richardson
- Popular culture, Reading and print culture
Chapbooks were small, affordable forms of literature for children and adults that were sold on the streets, and covered a range of subjects from fairy tales and ghost stories to news of politics, crime or disaster. Dr Ruth Richardson explains what this literature looked like, its subject matter and the ways in which it was produced.
- Article by:
- Eric Rasmussen, Ian DeJong
- Power, politics and religion, Renaissance writers, Magic, illusion and the supernatural, Tragedies
Eric Rasmussen and Ian DeJong explore the ambiguities and dualities of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.