(Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)

(Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)

Limited editions

Hard to find zines tell Chicago stories, writ small.

Handmade books and journals, says Sarah Wenzel, go back “as far as you find publishing itself.” But when 1920s pulp science fiction aficionados started creating amateur periodicals called fanzines, they pioneered the self-publishing phenomenon that later became known as zines.

Wenzel, bibliographer for literatures of Europe and the Americas, was looking for chapbooks to bolster the library’s Chicago poetry holdings at Quimby’s, a Wicker Park bookstore specializing in independent publishing, when she got the idea to start a zine collection. The library’s 400-plus zines date from the early 1990s to yesterday. Produced in tiny quantities, they can be hard to come by. An agreement with Quimby’s sets aside for the library one copy of every Chicago-based zine it receives.

Faculty and students in creative writing, English, and the Center for Gender Studies have shown interest in the collection, and Wenzel expects sociologists and historians to follow. Through April 13 selected autobiographical zines, including those pictured here, are on display in My Life is an Open Book: Do-It-Yourself Autobiography in the Special Collections Research Center exhibition gallery and online.