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A Brief History of Literatura de Cordel Doe Library Exhibition, University of California, Berkeley

The name Literatura de Cordel, or “literature on a string,” comes from the practice of street vendors to hang chapbooks and pamphlets on strings so the potential customers can browse them easily. Usually, these are displayed during regional fairs. These Brazilian chapbooks and pamphlets were brought to the New World by the first Portuguese colonists and derive their origins from the Portuguese print tradition of Papel volante or “flying paper,” a form of popular stories printed as chapbooks from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries in an eight-page quarto format. In Brazil, Literatura de Cordel echoes a unique blend of folk poetry traditionally conveyed orally until its appearance in print in the late 19th century.

This exhibition was curated by Dr. Liladhar R. Pendse, UC Berkeley. The exhibition could not have been possible if not for the help of Ms. Aisha Hamilton and Mr. Kevin Cloud. I also want to thank Ms. Stacy Reardon for her editing advice.