It's a sunny day. You're reclining on a deck chair--possibly on the beach, possibly on the deck of a cruise ship making for an island port where the palm fronds sway in the cool breezes. Nap taken, you reach for one of the books nearby. Which would you rather read? Moby Dick, or "A lusty tale of the South Pacific ... The Strumpet Sea?" How about, "Adventurer, lover, rogue, spy--he was a Buccaneer Surgeon!" Do you want to find out "What makes Onionhead run? Food or sex?" Too romantic? Perhaps you'd rather try, "The adventures of George Abercrombie Fox--the toughest bastard in the Royal Navy!"
It's taken a long time, but best-sellers are making their way into research libraries, including ours. Public librarians have long known that these are the books in demand with the reading public, but it's taken longer for research libraries to realize that best-sellers, even pulp novels, have something to offer researchers.
How long? About a hundred and fifty years. Pulp fiction periodicals have been published since the mid-19th century, and the Library of Congress' Rare Book and Special Collections Division holds dime novels dating back to the 1860s. But scholarly attention has developed slowly...
This is the beginning of another article that I wrote for our Library Friends' Relative Bearings on the recently acquired Eberhardt Collection. You can read the rest of it in the .pdf version of the newsletter (p. 1 and 4).