Developed in the 1840s to compete with the "penny dreadful", yellow-backs were marketed as entertaining reading. They had brightly coloured covers, often printed by chromoxylography, that were attractive to a new class of readers, thanks to the spread of education and rail travel.
Routledges was one of the first publishers to begin marketing yellow-backs by starting their "Railway Library" in 1848. The series included 1,277 titles, published over 50 years. These mainly consisted of stereotyped reprints of novels originally published as cloth editions. By the late 19th century, yellow-backs included sensational fiction, adventure stories, "educational" manuals, handbooks, and cheap biographies.
- "Rare Books - Important Acquisitions". Edinburgh: National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 2007-03-22.
- "Recent acquisitions - Rare Books". National Library of Scotland. October 2001. Retrieved 2007-03-22.