Pamphlets are very collectible, depending on age, scarcity, condition, and subject matter. A pamphlet is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica (which uses UNESCO's official definition) as a printed work more than 5 pages but having fewer than 48 - the perfect size to carry in your pocket or slip into a handbag.
Pamphlets evolved with the rise of the printing press and an increasingly educated, literate society. In the early 1500s in Europe, pamphlets were an important part of spreading ideas about religion and politics. Some famous names who penned tracts included protestant reformer Martin Luther, French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal, and, of course, Voltaire.
Europeans were not the only people to enjoy writing and reading these type of leaflets. For example, American writer Thomas Paine became famous for his 1776 pamphlet Common Sense, which helped put forward ideas about American independence. Pamphlets were designed for broad distribution, so their impact could have far-reaching effects. The Federalist Papers were based on widely distributed opinion sheets penned by founding fathers like Alexander Hamilton.
This broad distribution was a two-edged sword for publishers: ideas could be spread very quickly among the regular people, but not all of these ideas had the best interests of others at heart. Unlike most books, not all pamphlets trumpet the name of the author - and for good reason. At various times in history, certain ideas were outlawed and even the printing of pamphlets was restricted. For example, in the 1640s, illegal pamphleteering in Britain was a criminal offense punishable by jail time.
Vintage pamphlets from the last century and before are unique additions to any collector's library. Compared to the thousands of booklets that were printed over the years, few have survived the test of time due to their flimsy construction, adding to their rarity, mystique, and collectibility. Buy pamphlets from AbeBooks sellers to start a set of ephemera to give you hours of enjoyment and gets you a little bit closer to history.