Johannsen and LeBlanc

This site contains scanned materials drawn from two major dime novel collections in Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University: the Albert Johannsen and Edward T. LeBlanc Collections.

johannsen_0.jpgAlbert Johannsen (1871-1962) was a professor of petrology and a dime novel collector. His landmark bibliography, The House of Beadle and Adams and Its Dime and Nickel Novels (1950), is a comprehensive study of the firm that published the first dime novels in the early 1860s. The three-volume work includes a year-by-year history of the firm, a biographical dictionary of Beadle's authors, and an exhaustive accounting of every series and every issue the house ever published. It is widely regarded as one of the seminal scholarly works on popular literature and the cornerstone of early dime novel scholarship. The Johannsen Collection, acquired by NIU in 1967, includes Johannsen's notes, papers, memoirs, dry plates, and memorabilia from when he wrote his bibliography, as well as his personal collection of dime novels, including near-complete runs of series like Beadle's Dime NovelsBeadle's Half-Dime Library, Beadle's New York Dime Library, the Saturday Journal, Beadle's Weekly, and Banner Weekly. The entirety of this collection of dime novels and story papers will be digitized through the Johannsen Project between 2017 and 2020.

Born in Belle Plain, Iowa in 1871, Johannsen graduated from the University of Illinois in 1894 with a major in architectural engineering. He continued his education at the University of Utah with a Bachelor's of Science in 1898, then received his Ph.D in petrography from John Hopkins University in 1908. After graduate school, Johannsen worked for the U.S. Geological Survey for a few years before joining the Department of Geology at the University of Chicago in 1910, where he remained until his retirement in 1937. His Descriptive Petrography of the Igneous Rocks, perhaps the greatest achievement of his professional career as a geologist, bears much in common with his later bibliographic endeavours: it was derived from decades of typewritten notes based on a large personal collection, with each entry accompanied by careful citations. F. J. Pettijohn, in his memorial after Johannsen's death, writes: "In a sense Johannsen's scholarship was a kind of literary scholarship. He was more interested in rock names than in rocks. He was more pleased if he could trace the history of a rock term to original sources than in the discovery of a new kind of rock."

Johannsen was, above all else, a collector. Besides dime novels, he collected igneous rocks (his collection of 5,000 specimens was left to the University of Chicago), first editions of Dickens, coins, stamps, autographs, cigar boxes, and whatever else caught his interest. After retirement, he left behind his career in geology to focus his energy on these hobbies, particularly his passion for collecting dime novels. He spent over 17 years working on The House of Beadle and Adams, which required extensive travel and correspondence with authors and their decendents, and which would ultimately received hundreds of positive reviews from newspapers and magazines across the country. In 1956, Johannsen published Phiz: Illustrations from the Novels of Charles Dickens, which was similarly well-received.

Browse digitized titles from the Johannsen Collection or search our online catalog, which includes titles not yet digitized.


Photograph courtesy of
Jacqueline LeBlanc

Edward T. LeBlanc (1918-2008) was the editor of the Dime Novel Round-Up from 1952 to 1994 and, like Johannsen, a self-taught bibliographer of dime novels. Although never published, his 13-binder bibliography provides a comprehensive listing of nearly every dime novel series and story, which LeBlanc reportedly began compling at the age of 15. A copy is available online from Villanova University and is being used as the foundation for The Edward T. LeBlanc Memorial Dime Novel Bibliography. The Edward T. LeBlanc Collection, acquired in 1998, is comprised of over 700 different dime novel series and novelettes, ranging in date from around 1850 to 1925. Titles such as Tip Top WeeklyFame and Fortune Weekly, Pluck and Luck, Secret Service, Wide Awake Library, and Oliver Optic's Magazine are well represented in this collection, many with fairly complete runs.

A World War II veteran, LeBlanc worked as a personnel specialist for the federal government, then managed the St. Mathieu Credit Union for many years. His real love, however, were books, especially dime novels, and especially dime novels about Frank Merriwell, which he spent his entire life collecting and describing. Over his 40+ year tenure as editor of the Dime Novel Round-Up, LeBlanc (or "Eddie") was remembered as one of the most knowledgable, humble, and generous collectors, who went out of his way to share his passion with others.

Villanova University has digitized a series of recorded interviews with LeBlanc conducted by Lydia Schurman at LeBlanc's home in Fall River, MA in August 1982. In these interviews, LeBlanc provides a broad and comprehensive overview of dime novel formats, publication histories, and scholarship.

Browse digitized titles from the Edward T. LeBlanc Collection or search our online catalog, which includes many titles not yet digitized. A finding aid is also available, with series listings for titles both cataloged and uncataloged.