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Rare Books and Special Collections At Northern Illinois University: American Popular Culture

A brief guide to Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University

American Popular Culture Links

American Popular Culture Collections

We have several complementary popular literature collections, which help us to conserve aspects of popular publishing from the rough period of 1840 to the present.


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, such as pulp science fiction and western fiction magazines and comic books. There is also a small collection of original art by comics creators.

The basis for our Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature collection are books nominated for the Nebula Awards, donated by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). These are complemented by our science fiction magazines and the literary papers of 55 science fiction and fantasy writers.


Subject Guide