State Library of South AustraliaState Library of South Australia

Little Red Riding Hood Chapbook

Catalogue record

Object Source: The entertaining story of Little Red Riding Hood to which is added, Tom Thumb's toy ; adorned with cuts

Place of Creation: York

Published by printed and sold by J. Kendrew Colliergate

Date of creation : [182-?]

Additional creator : Kendrew, James Taylor, Mrs. (Ann Martin), 1757-1830.

Reproduction rights are owned by State Library of South Australia. This image may be printed or saved for personal research or study. Use for any other purpose requires permission from the State Library of South Australia. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form.

Format : Pamphlet, 100 mm x 60 mm

Chapbooks were flimsy, cheap and readily available small pamphlets which were distributed throughout the British Isles by chapmen, known as the 'running stationers' or itinerant pedlars. The word 'chap' is derived from the Old English 'ceap' meaning barter or bargain. Chapbooks could be purchased for only a few pennies and so were affordable to all except the very poorest people. They were for many the only source of imaginative literature.

Chapbooks were produced as a flat sheet. Some folding and then cutting was required from the purchaser to produce a small booklet of generally eight to 16 pages. Because the little books were produced as cheaply as possible, there are certain crudities in the printing that would not be expected in more expensively produced books. Although the page numbers on the flat sheet appear to have no logical sense, when correctly folded the pages are then sequential.

Chapbooks were originally intended for adults and contained religious or political tracts, in particular relating to the English Civil War. Later they contained more general reading material, including the barest story outline for novels such as Robinson Crusoe, Don Quixote, and Pilgrim's Progress.

They date back to the 16th century and were published into the 20th century, but their peak was the 19th century, particularly those for children. Versions for children were very quickly produced and included adaptations of fairy stories as well as traditional English tales such as Robin Hood, Jack the Giant Killer and Dick Whittington, as well as nursery rhymes that are still familiar today.

The version of Little Red Riding Hood in this chapbook can be attributed to the translation from the French of Charles Perrault's tales, by English writer and translator Robert Samber (ca. 1682 - 1745) in 1720. Perrault produced the first known published version of Little Red Riding Hood (Le Petit Chaperon Rouge) in 1697 in Histoires et contes du temps passé, avec des moralités. Contes de ma m re l'Oye, (Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals. Tales of Mother Goose).

Samber's translation is distinctive, as Little Red Riding Hood is named as 'Biddy' and included amongst the items she carries in her basket to her ill grandmother, is custard, as well as the pot of butter mentioned in Perrault's tale.

Neither the Perrault version nor the Samber translation contain any sentimentality or the happy ending that we have become accustomed to since the version created by the Brothers Grimm (Rotkappchen or Little Red Cap) in 1812. Here, Little Red Riding Hood obeys the wolf's commands to get into bed with him and he kills her, having already dispensed with the Grandmother. There is no Woodsman saviour to be seen. However, Samber's translation does not include the final moralising that is seen in this chapbook version and in the Perrault tale. Both contain a very direct moral that young girls should beware the consequences of succumbing to the familiarity and suggestions of the destructive, predatory, 'wolf'.

This very small book also contains another moralising tale, Tom Thumb's Toy, which cautions against lying, plus an indulgent ode to My Mother, clearly to remind children to be respectful.

Interestingly it is largely because of chapbooks that stories such as these were preserved for later generations, as traditionally oral versions were put into print.

Read a PDF of this book 26.2MB


Further reading

Opie, Iona. Nursery companion, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, c1980

Tuer, Andrew W. Pages and pictures from forgotten children's books, London: The Leadenhall Press; New York: C. Scribner's sons, 1898-9

Weiss, Harry B. A book about chapbooks; the people's literature of bygone times, Hatboro, Pa., Folklore Associates, 1969

Zipes, Jack, The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood: Versions of the Tale in Sociocultural Context, London : Heinemann, 1983


National Library of Scotland: Rare Books Collection. Chapbooks

Victoria and Albert Museum: Chapbooks. What is a chapbook?

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