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About the pb Collection

The Mass-Market Paperback Collection at the Rare Book Collection
of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The twentieth-century advent of paperbacks brought cheap, portable books to the masses, revolutionizing the publishing industry and allowing for the publication of authors and genres that had historically been neglected by hardcover book publishers. Mystery novels and science fiction sales boomed in paperback; westerns, romances, and fantasy novels soon found niches in the paperback market. These books were designed for distribution to a mass audience, not only through bookstores, but also at supermarkets, drugstores, newsstands, and the like. UNC-Chapel Hill's Mass-Market Paperbacks collection consists of approximately 700 twentieth-century paperbacks and embodies a necessary element in the Rare Book Collection's commitment to represent the history of the book. The Rare Book Collection acquired the core collection in 1994 and has continued to add acquisitions focused on cover art.

Over seventy-five percent of the paperbacks in this collection date from 1939-1959, the first twenty years of the American mass-market paperback industry. Highlights include nine of the first ten Dell paperbacks, Dashiell Hammett's the Maltese Falcon with dust jacket, Rocket to the Morgue (the first and only book in the Phantom Mystery series), and many Signet books with covers by James Avati. The original collector clearly had an affinity for "hard-boiled" detective fiction, so authors such as James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, David Goodis, Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson, and Cornell Woolrich are well-represented. Most of the items in the collection published after 1960 are reprints of "hard-boiled" authors.

The collection also includes several items that are not part of the mass-market paperback scope. Among these are a limited run of Black Mask, issues of several other "pulp" magazines, a Jim Thomson novel in hardcover signed by the author, and a 1934 compilation of Dashiell Hammett's Secret Agent X-9. These special additions make the Mass-Market Paperbacks Collection an excellent complement to the Barzun-Taylor Mystery Detective Collection.

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