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Special Collections at Northern Illinois University

Popular Literature Collections

A special collection is created to keep together material in one subject area which would be scattered in the Library of Congress classification system or might otherwise not meet the usual rare book criteria. Some of these collections may not show their "specialness" for years to come, but we are in the process of conserving them for future generations of researchers.

While most of these materials are made available through our Online Catalog and finding aids, there are portions of our collections which are not fully processed. If you haven't quite found what you are looking for, please ask!

Popular Literature Collections

We have several complementary popular literature collections, which help us to conserve aspects of popular publishing from the rough period 1840-1920, and 1920 to the present. We also have a small group of popular literature related links.


During this earlier period, dime novels, penny dreadfuls, and story papers proliferated, as the reading population grew steadily. These books were closely followed by series literature for children, along with early magazines. Most of the materials in RBSC collections are American, but some are British. Rare Books and Special Collections has collected over 50,000 titles in these areas.

Horatio Alger Society Repository NIU has the largest collection of materials related to Horatio Alger, Jr. in the country, and is the official repository of the Horatio Alger Society.

American Popular Literature Collection: The American Popular Literature Collection is comprised of mass-appeal publications issued in America from approximately 1840 - 1940. The collection includes first or early editions of best-sellers by both American and British authors of this period. Among the childrens' authors represented in this collection are Victor Appleton (Tom Swift books), Louisa May Alcott, Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan books), Stella M. Francis (Campfire Girls series), Oliver Optic (various boys' series), and Helen Louise Thorndyke (Honey Bunch series), to name only a few. Also included are popular history, gift books, poetry, periodicals such as Chatterbox and Frank Leslie's serials, and other publications that were best-sellers or designed for mass audiences.

Albert Johannsen Dime Novel Collection: The working collection of Albert Johannsen, author of the seminal multivolume bibliography The House of Beadle and Adams. An electronic version of his bibliography is available here. Permission to reproduce images or text from this bibliography must be obtained from the University of Oklahoma Press, which still holds the copyright. Their contact information can be found here.

Edward T. LeBlanc Collection: The working bibliographical collection of Edward T. LeBlanc, one of the foremost bibliographers and scholars of dime novels.

Merriwell Collection: A comprehensive collection of the novels featuring Frank Merriwell.

Edward Stratemeyer Collection: A collection of first editions of the series novels written by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. This collection was purchased through the Friends of the NIU Libraries.


As an extension of our popular literature collection, RBSC also holds more modern popular reading materials.

Comic Book Collection: A small but growing collection of sequential art, both in single issue and trade paperback form. There is also a small collection of original art by comics creators. Much of this collection is unprocessed; we are trying to especially bring in more self-published materials.

Science Fiction Collection: The basis for this collection are books nominated for the Nebula Awards, donated by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). We also have a significant run of early Science Fiction Magazines.

Western Fiction Magazines Collection: A collection of Western titles from approximately 1905-1955.

Popular Literature Links:

19th Century American Children's Book Trade Directory
(American Antiquarian Society)
19th Century Girls' Series
(Maintained by Dierdre A. Johnson)
American Women's Dime Novel Project
Beadle & Adams Archives 1848-1920
(University of Delaware)
Black Mask Magazine
Charles Humberd Dime Novel Collection
(University of Delaware)

Children's Picture Book Database
(Abstracts of Children's books; Miami University)
Dime Novels and Penny Dreadfuls
(Stanford University Library) Stanford Timeline
Dime Novel Archives in the United States Domestic Goddesses
(Domestic Literature e-journal)
Domestic Goddesses
(Domestic Literature E-Journal)
M.J. Ivers and Company Archive
(University of Delaware)
Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read

Publishers' Bindings Online 1815-1930: The Art of Books
Series Book Magazine Index
A subject index of hobby journals which feature articles on juvenile series books.
Maintained by James Keeline
Maintained by James Keeline
Stratemeyer Syndicate Pseudonyms
Stratemeyer Syndicate Records 1832-1984
(New York Public Library)
Stratemeyer Syndicate Records
(Beinecke Library, Yale University)
Wright American Fiction
(U.S. Fiction 1851-1875)