The First Children’s Book

As a TC intern and future librarian, I spend a fair amount of time looking for things at the library.  It will probably come as no surprise to any of you to find out that TC has an incredible collection of historical children’s literature.  Thinking you too may be curious to see what lives in the closed stacks, I’ve scanned and posted some highlights from our stellar collection. These posts will be (mostly) in chronological order and I’ll try to contextualize with fun facts as I find them.  If you are interested in viewing any of these books, you can request them from the closed stacks through Educat.  Please keep in mind some are very fragile and would have to be read at the library.

Enjoy!

The oldest book I found, The Little Pretty Pocket Book by was published in 1744 by John Newbery, a London bookseller. This is considered to be the first significant commercial children’s book published in English. According to the Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood: In History and Society, (a database available through the library) Newbery’s book was influenced by John Lock’s ideas that children’s texts should be entertaining which, I think back then meant they should have pictures.  That helps to explain the motto Delectando Momenus or “Instruction with Delight,” featured on the cover.

Locke also felt children’s books should have some kind of moral to them (he much preferred fables to fairy tales) and as you can see below, this book is quite didactic in nature.

To help market this book when it was first published, it came with either a ball or pincushion, determined by the gender of the reader.

It is also believed that this book is the first known instance of the word “baseball” in print.
(Jane Austen’s  Northanger Abbey also hosts one of the earliest references to baseball, which was most likely a version of the game rounders.)