Fun & Frivolity
* John Newberry (1744) – “A little Pretty Pocket Book”
Believed to be the 1st published book!
BUT children’s literature did not only include books for the reader’s pleasure, some being far from light-hearted, therefore
literature read by children started much earlier
School Books Pic. 1
Religious Texts & Paper Pamphlets : * Chapbooks ( Pic. 1 - 17 th Century)
- Political and Religious Ideas
After the Star Chamber (1) was abolished * “Small Merry Books” (Pic. 2 - collected by Samuel Pepys)
* Sermons and Tracts Pic. 2
(1) English Court of Law that sat at the Royal Palace of Westminster from the late 15th century
until 1641. (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Chamber)
Popular tales sprang from oral culture from as early as the 13th
century Pic. 3
a) George on Horseback;
b) Bevis of SouthHampton (Pic 3 - woodcut version done in
c) The Seven Champions of Christendom (1596)
d) Tom Hickathrift; Old Mother Shipton; The King and the
Superstitious Tales shifted and provided the basis for a
specifically Children’s Literature.
Despite widespread availability, Literacy Levels were low ( in the
17th century only 30% of men could read and even fewer
women). Still, more and more children were learning to read,
which can be concluded from the increasing number of schools in
towns and larger villages.
Social Class – determined the type of reader a child would
Horn Books and Primers (for low income children)
Books of Courtesy (for well-to-do children)
(Notes: More boys than girls attended school during this
period; no distinction between readership ages )
- Some writers attempted to provide lighter material
for children. The most significant was John Amos
Comenius’s “Orbis Sensualium Pictus” (1659)
* Not a children’s book by modern standards
* 1st lavishly illustrated picture encyclopedia for
Old Fables used in schools:
*Aesop’s Fables (1st printed in English by
Caxton in 1484)
Printings of Aesop’s Fables through time:
“...the history of children’s literature has always
been characterised by continuity mixed with far-
James Janeway’s “A Token for Children” – specifically designed
for children, continued in publication until the 19th century
* John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” (1678) – best loved classic
of the Puritan Period
* Abraham Chear (one of the most popular of the Puritan
writers) had his verse published in “A Looking Glass for the
* Benjamin Keach’s “War with the Devil” (1673)
* Nathaniel Crouch, published under his pseudonym ‘R.B.’ –
Richard Burton: “The Young Man’s Calling” (1678); “Youth’s
Divine Pastime” (3rd edn, 1691); “Winter Evening
Writers more concerned with the Child as a Reader:
* William Ronksley’s work:
- “The Child’s Weeks-Work Or, a little book, so nicely suited to
the genius and capacity of a little child, ... that it will infallibly
Allure and Lead him on into a way of reading” (1712)
* Isaac Watts’s “Divine Songs attempted in Easie Language for
the Use of Children” (1715)
Publishing for Children (early 18th century )
By the beginning of the 18th century books for children were
becoming more child oriented: in the tone, language and its
Two of the most interesting books specifically published for
* Mary Cooper’s “The Child’s New Plaything” (1742); and
Tommy Thumb’s “Pretty Song Book Voll 2” (1744)
Thomas Boreman: published a set of ten miniature books:
“The Gigantic Histories” (1740- 1743)
Translation of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales:
Robert Samer’s “Histories or Tales of Past Times. Told by
Mother Goose” (1729)
Madame de Beaumont’s “Le Cabinet des Fées” (1785-1789)
was also published in English, and the adaptation of “Beauty
and the Beast” became a staple of chapbook literature.
Before the mid 18th century, book
publishing lacked seriousness of purpose.
John Newberry (1744-1767) changed this with
his great talent for understanding the new
market for children’s books and school books.
* Began as a provincial book seller and newspaper
* Also dealt in patient medicines;
* Moved from Reading to London and soon after
produced “A Pretty Little Pocket Book” (1744), which
became one of the best known of all the early children’s
* Newberry’s mixture of light-hearted
- Lilliputian Magazine (1751-1752);
- “A Pretty Book of Pictures for Little Masters
and Misses” (1752);
- “Nurse Truelove’s New Year’s Gift” (1753);
- “The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes”
(1765) – perhaps his most famous book.
Newberryalso contributed to the burgeoning
schoolbook market with a series of lesson books.
He died on the 22nd December 1767.
The education of the young was becoming of increasing significance as social expectations developed, and the
middle classes— including women—had more time for the leisurely pursuit of reading. Good schooling was
becoming a necessity.
• John Locke […] recommended a carefully judged curriculum designed to meet the needs of pupils on the basis that
knowledge should be impressed on young and untouched minds: the tabula rasa or blank sheet principle. His argument
was hugely influential. At least fourteen editions of his educational treatise were published between 1693 and 1772 and
provided a focus for writers and publishers in their provision of a literature to feed the demand from schools and
parents (Pickering 1981: passim);
• One of the first books to expound upon schooling for girls: Sarah Fielding’s The Governess: or Little Female
Ellenor Fenn, in Cobwebs to Catch Flies (c.1783) she appealed to parents as much as to children: ‘if the human mind
be a tabula rasa—you to whom it is entrusted should be cautious what is written upon it’.
Sarah Trimmer, specially concerned with the moral impact of writing for children. Her Fabulous Histories.
Designed for the Instruction of Children, respecting their Treatment of Animals (1786), later better known as The
History of the Robins, aimed to teach children their duty towards brute creation. In Prints of Scripture History (1786),
and numerous other pious works, she provided children with a grounding in sound religious teaching. Her Little
Spelling Book for Young Children (2nd edn, 1786) and Easy Lessons for Young Children (1787) were also popular and
went into several editions.
* Anna Barbauld, whose Lessons for Children from Two to
Three Years Old (1778) and Hymns in Prose for Children (1781);
Evenings at Home (1792–1796);
* Mary Pilkington Biography for Girls and Biography for Boys,
both published in 1799; New Tales of the Castle (1800), modelled
on Madame de Genlis’s Tales of the Castle (1785);
* Mary Wollstonecraft Original Stories from Real Life (1788);
* Dorothy Kilner’s, Anecdotes of a Boarding School; or an
Antidote to the Vices of those Useful Seminaries (c.1783); The
Village School (c.1795); Short Conversations (c.1785);
The Life and Perambulation of a Mouse (c.1783–1784);
Lockewas nottheonlyinfluential theorist
* Maria Edgeworth ( one of Rosseau’s most faithful disciples)
“The purple jar”
* English Rousseauist, Thomas Day’s Sandford and Merton
(1783—1789)” (one of the most popular sets of tales for boys during
this period and was widely adapted and reissued well
into the nineteenth century); Little Jack (1788), firm in its
Rousseauism and allusions to the Crusoe tale of survival through
ingenuity and tenacity.
Newberry’s successors carried out his tradition:
* Books containing moral material in a light-hearted guise were becoming commonplace;
* Children’s publishers also dealt in the production of maps and games; books were not the only educational materials
to provide amusement;
* By the late eighteenth century publishing for children had become a sufficiently profitable undertaking for
several major London publishers and many provincial chapbook publishers to be issuing a range of children’s
items: for instruction and amusement; The quality and variety of production had also improved immeasurably.
Despite the prevalence of moral tales and didacticism, there were, therefore, items to amuse and divert
children towards the end of the century in addition to the chapbook literature of the period. […] Mother
Goose’s Melody, a 96-page Newbery book in two parts—with fifty-one songs and lullabies in Part One—
is particularly important because of the number of times it was to be reprinted in Britain and America.
(Opie and Opie, 1951/1980:33).
In conclusion: By 1800, the children’s book trade was well established and children had a wide ranging literature
at their disposal. Not all of it was just for entertainment, but increasingly it was being written with their
developmental needs in mind. From their origins in the formal writing of the early schoolbooks, Puritan texts, popular
literature and fables, children’s books had emerged as a class of literature.
The book trade was poised to develop this even further and to exploit the technical innovations of the next century.
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Opie, I. and Opie P. (1951/1980) The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pickering, S.F. (1981) John Locke and Children’s Books in Eighteenth Century England, Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press.
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