In the middle of the 18th century, two individuals in London began publishing original material designed to instruct but also to entertain children, and they did so almost exclusively. The first was Thomas Boreman and the second was John Newbery. Boreman knew that anything he published for children had to have an element of instruction in order to attract buyers. Parents and guardians would not purchase them otherwise. Boreman attempted (and succeeded) by satisfying both adults and children with his GIGANTICK HISTORIES. They were miniature in size (perfect for little hands), had some pictures, and most importantly contained a list of subscribers (how exciting to see the child's name in print). The year was 1740. Boreman followed the two-volume publication with CURIOSITIES IN THE TOWER OF LONDON which includes illustrations of animals found in the Tower zoo.
Boreman was in business for only a couple of years, publishing around a dozen titles. The Newberys; John, Francis (son), Francis (nephew with his wife Elizabeth), and Thomas Carnan (step-son) published a couple of thousand titles over nearly 75 years (1740-1814). In 1744, the first truly entertaining children's book appeared entitled LITTLE PRETTY POCKET-BOOK. That same year Newbery moved his establishment to London and within a year had set up shop at St. Paul's Churchyard. It was some fifty years later that John Marshall set up shop in London at St. Mary's Churchyard where he thrilled children with his boxed libraries. William Darton, an engraver, began publishing in London in 1787. His first effort was the popular LITTLE TRUTHS BETTER THAN GREAT FABLES. It was in this same year that Isaiah Thomas of Worcester, Massachusetts, printed his own PRETTY POCKET-BOOK and pirated other Newbery, Marshall and Darton books for children. These publishers were not idealists or revolutionaries but business men who recognized there were profits to be made in books for children.
An important key to making a children's book a successful learning tool seems to be the presence of pictures or diagrams. In the beginning it made little difference whether the pictures were relevant to the text and often they weren't. And many of them were crudely drawn. Whether learning a language, finding a capitol on a map, seeing a mother reading to her child, counting sheep in a field, pointing out people's differences, demonstrating exercises, carving a rabbit, examining the scales on a fish or the legs on a caterpillar, comparing the size of animals to each other and to people-the illustrations impress the mind and the lessons stick. Would we remember Aesop's morals if the fables had not been illustrated with all those animals? Would we think twice about sucking our thumbs after seeing those huge scissors in Struwwelpeter cutting off fingers?
~ written by Pamela Harer
THE YOUNG LADY'S ACCIDENCE, OR, A SHORT AND EASY INTRODUCTION TO ENGLISH GRAMMAR. By Caleb Bingham. Boston: Printed by Manning & Loring for David West, 1799. 11th edition
Historic wooden alphabet block, covered with paper with relief illustrations, color printed. Exhibit checklist 1.3 (View this item)
THE HISTORY OF SIR RICHARD WHITTINGTON AND HIS CAT. ADORNED WITH CUTS. London: Printed for Houlston and Son, n. d. [1820-1840]
WELD'S PROGRESSIVE ENGLISH GRAMMAR; ILLUSTRATED WITH COPIOUS EXERCISES IN ANALYSIS, PARSING AND COMPOSITION ADAPTED TO SCHOOLS AND ACADEMIES OF EVERY GRADE. By Allen H. Weld. Portland, ME: O.L. Sanborn, Boston: George C. Rand & Avery, ©1859.
THE NEW FRANKLIN PRIMER AND FIRST READER. By Loomis J. Campbell. New York & Chicago: Sheldon & Company, [ca. 1885].
MOTHER GOOSE'S MELODIES, WITH NEW PICTURES. New York: McLoughlin Bros., 1858.
CHIT CHAT FOR BOYS AND GIRLS. Part of the Good Cheer Series. Boston: Lothrop Pub. Co., ©1893.