Guide to the Research Collections

- Section -- II: -- THE HUMANITIES
- PART TWO
- 21 -- JUVENILE LITERATURE
- EARLY CHILDREN'S LITERATURE

EARLY CHILDREN'S LITERATURE

Educational

Two interesting early horn books are in the library's collections. One in the Rare Book Division, possibly of the eighteenth century, is of wood covered with brick-red paper, with the lesson sheet on the front covered with horn and the back stamped in black with the device of a double-headed eagle. The other, for which there is no indication of date or place of origin, is in the Berg Collection; it is of ivory, paddle-shaped, with alphabet and vowels engraved on the front. There are designs and pictures (including the head of a dog with a pipe in its mouth) on the handle, sides, and back.

In the Spencer Collection is found an early book designed strictly for children, Catechismus Pro Pueris et luventute (1539), designed to teach the Lutheran catechism to the young. Of similar intent, although intended for Puritan children, is the Rare Book Division copy of John Cotton's Spiritual Milk for Boston Babes in Either England. Drawn out of the Breasts of both Testaments for their Souls Nourishment (Cambridg [sic], 1656). This is the only known copy of the earliest American edition. Other religious catechisms are mainly American, ranging from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Another well-known item in the Rare Book Division is the earliest extant edition of the New-England Primer Enlarged (1727). It is the first in an important collection of New England Primers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Also found in the division are primers for American Indian children. Noah Webster's A Grammatical Institute of the English Language (1783), better known as Webster's "Spelling Book" or "Blue-backed Speller," forms part of an extensive collection of schoolbooks by this great educator, many of them his personal copies. The collection of Confederate school books in the Rare Book Division is also of interest, both in content and as examples of printing.

The Schatzki collection of children's books was purchased in 1932. Consisting of approximately 700 pieces, the collection was given the special class mark 8-NASZ. Some 15 items in the stacks were transferred to the Rare Book Division, and the outstanding book, an original edition of Struwwelpeter, is in the Spencer Collection. Most of the material is in German, published in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. Some 100 titles in French and English are from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Also included are a number of German encyclopedic picture books of the second half of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, finely illustrated with hand-colored engravings of the period, among them Bilder-Akademie für die Jugend (Nürnberg, 1782). There are also a number of German children's alphabet books and almanacs of the eighteenth century.

The C.C. Darton collection of 427 children's books, most of which bear the Darton publishing imprint, was acquired in 1940. Dating from the late eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries, the majority of the books are of an instructional or moral nature.1

Chapbooks, Fairy Tales, and Other Material

The collection of English, Scottish, American, and foreign chapbooks numbers about 2,500 pieces ranging primarily from 1750 to about 1850.2 A chapbook may be defined as any printed material, from a broadside to a good-sized book, that was carried for sale by a chapman, or peddler. Many chapbooks were designed for children. An alphabetical card catalog of all the chapbooks in the Research Libraries is located in the Rare Book Division, where most of the collection is housed.

Also in the Rare Book Division is a first edition of Histoires ou contes du temps passé (1697) of Charles Perrault, perhaps better known as "Mère Loye" (Mother Goose). The Spencer Collection has a second edition of this famous work dated 1700 and a copy of the 1786 edition, which was the first with woodcuts, the earlier editions having been illustrated with engravings.

 The Life of Washington the Great (Augusta, Georgia, 1806), by Mason Locke (Parson) Weems, is a much sought-after item. The first four editions of this work were factual biography, but with the fifth the author rewrote the book, inventing the hatchet story and other "very curious anecdotes" which made him and his book famous. William Roscoe's The Butterfly's Ball (1807), which broke with the current tradition of the moral tale, is in the Spencer Collection, with a set of original drawings in pen and wash by the artist, William Mulready. Another nursery classic in the Spencer Collection is a first edition of Heinrich Hoffmann-Donner's Lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder (1845), more familiar as Struwwelpeter or Slovenly Peter. The rarer first edition of the book in English, entitled The English Struwwelpeter or Pretty Stories and Funny Pictures for Little Children (Leipsic [sic], 1848), is also in the Spencer Collection.

The Slavonic Division houses a number of early Russian children's books dating from 1740 to the mid-nineteenth century. Among them are bibliographical rarities and specimens of fine printing and illustration.

The Beadle Dime Novel collection was given to the library in 1922 by Dr. Frank P. O'Brien. It includes, among the varied series in which these novels were issued, 68 of the famous "original yellow back novels" which began to appear in 1850. Seventeen of the first 25 titles of this series are in the collection, including a first edition of Edward Ellis's celebrated Seth Jones, a story of the New York wilderness in 1785. There were 1,400 items in the collection, now housed in the Rare Book Division, which has not been greatly augmented in succeeding years.3 In 1963, C.V. Clare gave approximately 900 issues of the Diamond Dick Weekly and the Wild West Weekly, which serve to supplement the holdings of publications inspired by the Beadle imprints.

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