Forgotten Books of the American Nursery - A History of the Development of the American Story-Book
by Rosalie V. Halsey
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Transcriber's note:

A number of typographical errors have been maintained in the current version of this book. A complete list is found at the end of the text.


A History of the Development of the American Story-Book



Boston Charles E. Goodspeed & Co. 1911 Copyright, 1911, by C.E. Goodspeed & Co. Of this book seven hundred copies were printed in November 1911, by D.B. Updike, at The Merrymount Press, Boston



I. Introductory 3

II. The Play-Book in England 33

III. Newbery's Books in America 59

IV. Patriotic Printers and the American Newbery 89

V. The Child and his Book at the End of the Eighteenth Century 121

VI. Toy-Books in the early Nineteenth Century 147

VII. American Writers and English Critics 191

Index 233


The Devil and the Disobedient Child Frontispiece From "The Prodigal Daughter." Sold at the Printing Office, No. 5, Cornhill, Boston. [J. and J. Fleet, 1789?]

Facing Page The Devil appears as a French Gentleman 26 From "The Prodigal Daughter." Sold at the Printing Office, No. 5, Cornhill, Boston. [J. and J. Fleet, 1789?]

Title-page from "The Child's New Play-thing" 44 Printed by J. Draper; J. Edwards in Boston [1750]. Now in the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations

Title-page from "A Little Pretty Pocket-Book" 47 Printed by Isaiah Thomas, Worcester, MDCCLXXXVII. Now in the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations

A page from "A Little Pretty Pocket-Book" 49 Printed by Isaiah Thomas, Worcester, MDCCLXXXVII. Now in the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations

John Newbery's Advertisement of Children's Books 60 From the "Pennsylvania Gazette" of November 15, 1750

Title-page of "The New Gift for Children" 70 Printed by Zechariah Fowle, Boston, 1762. Now in the Library of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Miss Fanny's Maid 74 Illustration from "The New Gift for Children," printed by Zechariah Fowle, Boston, 1762. Now in the Library of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

A page from a Catalogue of Children's Books printed by Isaiah Thomas 106 From "The Picture Exhibition," Worcester, MDCCLXXXVIII

Illustration of Riddle XIV 110 From "The Puzzling-Cap," printed by John Adams, Philadelphia, 1805

Frontispiece from "The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes" 117 From one of The First Worcester Edition, printed by Isaiah Thomas in MDCCLXXXVII. Now in the Library of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Sir Walter Raleigh and his Man 125 Copper-plate illustration from "Little Truths," printed in Philadelphia by J. and J. Crukshank in 1800

Foot Ball 126 Copper-plate illustration from "Youthful Recreations," printed in Philadelphia by Jacob Johnson about 1802

Jacob Johnson's Book-Store in Philadelphia about 1800 155

A Wall-paper Book-Cover 165 From "Lessons for Children from Four to Five Years Old," printed in Wilmington (Delaware) by Peter Brynberg in 1804

Tom the Piper's Son 170 Illustration and text engraved on copper by William Charles, of Philadelphia, in 1808

A Kind and Good Father 172 Woodcut by Alexander Anderson for "The Prize for Youthful Obedience," printed in Philadelphia by Jacob Johnson in 1807

A Virginian 174 Illustration from "People of all Nations," printed in Philadelphia by Jacob Johnson in 1807

A Baboon 174 Illustration from "A Familiar Description of Beasts and Birds," printed in Boston by Lincoln and Edmands in 1813

Drest or Undrest 176 Illustration from "The Daisy," published by Jacob Johnson in 1808

Little Nancy 182 Probably engraved by William Charles for "Little Nancy, or, the Punishment of Greediness," published in Philadelphia by Morgan & Yeager about 1830

Children of the Cottage 196 Engraved by Joseph I. Pease for "The Youth's Sketch Book," published in Boston by Lilly, Wait and Company in 1834

Henrietta 200 Engraved by Thomas Illman for "The American Juvenile Keepsake," published in Brockville, U.C., by Horace Billings & Co. in 1835

A Child and her Doll 206 Illustration from "Little Mary," Part II, published in Boston by Cottons and Barnard in 1831

The Little Runaway 227 Drawn and engraved by J.W. Steel for "Affection's Gift," published in New York by J.C. Riker in 1832



Thy life to mend This book attend. The New England Tutor London (1702-14)

To be brought up in fear And learn A B C. FOXE, Book of Martyrs

Forgotten Books of the American Nursery



A shelf full of books belonging to the American children of colonial times and of the early days of the Republic presents a strangely unfamiliar and curious appearance. If chronologically placed, the earliest coverless chap-books are hardly noticeable next to their immediate successors with wooden sides; and these, in turn, are dominated by the gilt, silver, and many colored bindings of diminutive dimensions which hold the stories dear to the childish heart from Revolutionary days to the beginning of the nineteenth century. Then bright blue, salmon, yellow, and marbled paper covers make a vivid display which, as the century grows older, fades into the sad-colored cloth bindings thought adapted to many children's books of its second quarter.

An examination of their contents shows them to be equally foreign to present day ideas as to the desirable characteristics for children's literature. Yet the crooked black type and crude illustrations of the wholly religious episodes related in the oldest volumes on the shelf, the didactic and moral stories with their tiny type-metal, wood, and copper-plate pictures of the next groups; and the "improving" American tales adorned with blurred colored engravings, or stiff steel and wood illustrations, that were produced for juvenile amusement in the early part of the nineteenth century,—all are as interesting to the lover of children as they are unattractive to the modern children themselves. The little ones very naturally find the stilted language of these old stories unintelligible and the artificial plots bewildering; but to one interested in the adult literature of the same periods of history an acquaintance with these amusement books of past generations has a peculiar charm and value of its own. They then become not merely curiosities, but the means of tracing the evolution of an American literature for children.

To the student desiring an intimate acquaintance with any civilized people, its lighter literature is always a great aid to personal research; the more trivial, the more detailed, the greater the worth to the investigator are these pen-pictures as records of the nation he wishes to know. Something of this value have the story-books of old-fashioned childhood. Trivial as they undoubtedly are, they nevertheless often contain our best sketches of child-life in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,—a life as different from that of a twentieth century child as was the adult society of those old days from that of the present time. They also enable us to mark as is possible in no other way, the gradual development of a body of writing which, though lagging much behind the adult literature, was yet also affected by the local and social conditions in America.

Without attempting to give the history of the evolution of the A B C book in England—the legitimate ancestor of all juvenile books—two main topics must be briefly discussed before entering upon the proper matter of this volume. The first relates to the family life in the early days of the Massachusetts Commonwealth, the province that produced the first juvenile book. The second topic has to do with the literature thought suitable for children in those early Puritan days. These two subjects are closely related, the second being dependent upon the first. Both are necessary to the history of these quaint toy volumes, whose stories lack much meaning unless the conditions of life and literature preceding them are understood.

When the Pilgrim Fathers, seeking freedom of faith, founded their first settlements in the new country, one of their earliest efforts was directed toward firmly establishing their own religion. This, though nominally free, was eventually, under the Mathers, to become a theocracy as intolerant as that faith from which they had fled. The rocks upon which this religion was builded were the Bible and the Catechism. In this history of toy-books the catechism is, however, perhaps almost the more important to consider, for it was a product of the times, and regarded as indispensable to the proper training of a family.

The Puritan conception of life, as an error to be rectified by suffering rather than as a joy to be accepted with thanksgiving, made the preparation for death and the dreadful Day of Judgment the chief end of existence. The catechism, therefore, with its fear-inspiring description of Hell and the consequences of sin, became inevitably the chief means of instructing children in the knowledge of their sinful inheritance. In order to insure a supply of catechisms, it was voted by the members of the company in sixteen hundred and twenty-nine, when preparing to emigrate, to expend "3 shillings for 2 dussen and ten catechismes."[6-A] A contract was also made in the same year with "sundry intended ministers for catechising, as also in teaching, or causing to be taught the Companyes servants & their children, as also the salvages and their children."[6-B] Parents, especially the mothers, were continually exhorted in sermons preached for a century after the founding of the colony, to catechize the children every day, "that," said Cotton Mather, "you may be continually dropping something of the Catechism upon them: Some Honey out of the Rock"! Indeed, the learned divine seems to have regarded it as a soothing and toothsome morsel, for he even imagined that the children cried for it continuously, saying: "O our dear Parents, Acquaint us with the Great God.... Let us not go from your Tender Knees, down to the Place of Dragons. Oh! not Parents, but Ostriches: Not Parents, but Prodigies."[6-C]

Much dissension soon arose among the ministers of the settlements as to which catechism should be taught. As the result of the discussion the "General Corte," which met in sixteen hundred and forty-one, "desired that the elders would make a catechism for the instruction of youth in the grounds of religion."[6-D]

To meet this request, several clergymen immediately responded. Among them was John Cotton, who presumably prepared a small volume which was entitled "Milk for Babes. Drawn out of the Breast of Both Testaments. Chiefly for the spiritual nourishment of Boston Babes in either England: But may be of like use for any children." For the present purpose the importance of this little book lies in the supposition that it was printed at Cambridge, by Daye, between sixteen hundred and forty-one and sixteen hundred and forty-five, and therefore was the first book of any kind written and printed in America for children;—an importance altogether different from that attached to it by the author's grandson, Cotton Mather, when he asserted that "Milk for Babes" would be "valued and studied and improved till New England cease to be New England."[7-A]

To the little colonials this "Catechism of New England" was a great improvement upon any predecessor, even upon the Westminster Shorter Catechism, for it reduced the one hundred and seven questions of that famous body of doctrine to sixty-seven, and the longest answer in "Milk for Babes" contained only eighty-four words.[7-B]

As the century grew older other catechisms were printed. The number produced before the eighteenth century bears witness to the diverse views in a community in which they were considered an essential for every member, adult or child. Among the six hundred titles roughly computed as the output of the press by seventeen hundred in the new country, eleven different catechisms may be counted, with twenty editions in all; of these the titles of four indicate that they were designed for very little children. In each community the pastor appointed the catechism to be taught in the school, and joined the teacher in drilling the children in its questions and answers. Indeed, the answers were regarded as irrefutable in those uncritical days, and hence a strong shield and buckler against manifold temptations provided by "yt ould deluder Satan." To offset the task of learning these doctrines of the church, it is probable that the mothers regaled the little ones with old folk-lore tales when the family gathered together around the great living-room fire in the winter evening, or asked eagerly for a bedtime story in the long summer twilight. Tales such as "Jack the Giant Killer," "Tom Thumb," the "Children in the Wood," and "Guy of Warwick," were orally current even among the plain people of England, though frowned upon by many of the Puritan element. Therefore it is at least presumable that these were all familiar to the colonists. In fact, it is known that John Dunton, in sixteen hundred and eighty-six, sold in his Boston warehouse "The History of Tom Thumb," which he facetiously offered to an ignorant customer "in folio with Marginal notes." Besides these orally related tales of enchantment, the children had a few simple pastimes, but at first the few toys were necessarily of home manufacture. On the whole, amusements were not encouraged, although "In the year sixteen hundred and ninety-five Mr. Higginson," writes Mrs. Earle, "wrote from Massachusetts to his brother in England, that if toys were imported in small quantity to America, they would sell." And a venture of this character was certainly made by seventeen hundred and twelve in Boston. Still, these were the exception in a commonwealth where amusements were considered as wiles of the Devil, against whom the ministers constantly warned the congregations committed to their charge.

Home in the seventeenth century—and indeed in the eighteenth century—was a place where for children the rule "to be seen, not heard," was strictly enforced. To read Judge Sewall's diary is to be convinced that for children to obtain any importance in life, death was necessary. Funerals of little ones were of frequent occurrence, and were conducted with great ceremony, in which pomp and meagre preparation were strangely mingled. Baby Henry Sewall's funeral procession, for instance, included eight ministers, the governor and magistrates of the county, and two nurses who bore the little body to the grave, into which, half full of water from the raging storm, the rude coffin was lowered. Death was kept before the eyes of every member of the colony; even two-year-old babies learned such mournful verse as this:

"I, in the Burying Place may See Graves Shorter than I; From Death's Arrest no age is free Young Children too may die; My God, may such an awful Sight Awakening be to me! Oh! that by Grace I might For Death prepared be."

When the younger members of the family are otherwise mentioned in the Judge's diary, it is perhaps to note the parents' pride in the eighteen-months-old infant's knowledge of the catechism, an acquirement rewarded by the gift of a red apple, but which suggests the reason for many funerals. Or, again, difficulties with the alphabet are sorrowfully put down; and also deliquencies at the age of four in attending family prayer, with a full account of punishments meted out to the culprit. Such details are, indeed, but natural, for under the stern conditions imposed by Cotton and the Mathers, religion looms large in the foreground of any sketch of family life handed down from the first century of the Massachusetts colony. Perhaps the very earliest picture in which a colonial child with a book occupies the centre of the canvas is that given in a letter of Samuel Sewall's. In sixteen hundred and seventy-one he wrote with pride to a friend of "little Betty, who though Reading passing well, took Three Moneths to Read the first Volume of the Book of Martyrs" as she sat by the fire-light at night after her daily task of spinning was done. Foxe's "Martyrs" seems gruesome reading for a little girl at bedtime, but it was so popular in England that, with the Bible and Catechism, it was included in the library of all households that could afford it.

Just ten years later, in sixteen hundred and eighty-one, Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" was printed in Boston by Samuel Green, and, being easily obtainable, superseded in a measure the "Book of Martyrs" as a household treasure. Bunyan's dream, according to Macaulay, was the daily conversation of thousands, and was received in New England with far greater eagerness than in the author's own country. The children undoubtedly listened to the talk of their elders and gazed with wide-open eyes at the execrable plates in the imported editions illustrating Christian's journey. After the deaths by fire and sword of the Martyrs, the Pilgrim's difficulties in the Slough of Despond, or with the Giant Despair, afforded pleasurable reading; while Mr. Great Heart's courageous cheerfulness brought practically a new characteristic into Puritan literature.

To Bunyan the children in both old and New England were indebted for another book, entitled "A Book for Boys and Girls: or, Country Rhimes for Children. By J.B. Licensed and Entered according to Order."[11-A] Printed in London, it probably soon made its way to this country, where Bunyan was already so well known. "This little octavo volume," writes Mrs. Field in "The Child and his Book," "was considered a perfect child's book, but was in fact only the literary milk of the unfortunate babes of the period." In the light of modern views upon juvenile reading and entertainment, the Puritan ideal of mental pabulum for little ones is worth recording in an extract from the preface. The following lines set forth this author's three-fold purpose:

"To show them how each Fingle-fangle, On which they doting are, their souls entangle, As with a Web, a Trap, a Gin, or Snare. While by their Play-things, I would them entice, To mount their Thoughts from what are childish Toys To Heaven for that's prepar'd for Girls and Boys. Nor do I so confine myself to these As to shun graver things, I seek to please, Those more compos'd with better things than Toys: Tho thus I would be catching Girls and Boys."

In the seventy-four Meditations composing this curious medley—"tho but in Homely Rhimes"—upon subjects familiar to any little girl or boy, none leaves the moral to the imagination. Nevertheless, it could well have been a relaxation, after the daily drill in "A B abs" and catechism, to turn the leaves and to spell out this:


The Frog by nature is both damp and cold, Her mouth is large, her belly much will hold, She sits somewhat ascending, loves to be Croaking in gardens tho' unpleasantly.


The hypocrite is like unto this frog; As like as is the Puppy to the Dog. He is of nature cold, his mouth is wide To prate, and at true Goodness to deride.

Doubtless, too, many little Puritans quite envied the child in "The Boy and the Watchmaker," a jingle wherein the former said, among other things:

"This Watch my Father did on me bestow A Golden one it is, but 'twill not go, Unless it be at an Uncertainty; I think there is no watch as bad as mine. Sometimes 'tis sullen, 'twill not go at all, And yet 'twas never broke, nor had a fall."

The same small boys may even have enjoyed the tedious explanation of the mechanism of the time-piece given by the Watchmaker, and after skipping the "Comparison" (which made the boy represent a convert and the watch in his pocket illustrative of "Grace within his Heart"), they probably turned eagerly to the next Meditation Upon the Boy and his Paper of Plumbs. Weather-cocks, Hobby-horses, Horses, and Drums, all served Bunyan in his effort "to point a moral" while adorning his tales.

In a later edition of these grotesque and quaint conceptions, some alterations were made and a primer was included. It then appeared as "A Book for Boys and Girls; or Temporal Things Spiritualized;" and by the time the ninth edition was reached, in seventeen hundred and twenty-four, the book was hardly recognizable as "Divine Emblems; or Temporal Things Spiritualized."

At present there is no evidence that these rhymes were printed in the colonies until long after this ninth edition was issued. It is possible that the success attending a book printed in Boston shortly after the original "Country Rhimes" was written, made the colonial printers feel that their profit would be greater by devoting spare type and paper to the now famous "New England Primer." Moreover, it seems peculiarly in keeping with the cast of the New England mind of the eighteenth century that although Bunyan had attempted to combine play-things with religious teaching for the English children, for the little colonials the first combination was the elementary teaching and religious exercises found in the great "Puritan Primer." Each child was practically, if not verbally, told that

"This little Catechism learned by heart (for so it ought) The Primer next commanded is for Children to be taught."

The Primer, however, was not a product wholly of New England. In sixteen hundred and eighty-five there had been printed in Boston by Green, "The Protestant Tutor for Children," a primer, a mutilated copy of which is now owned by the American Antiquarian Society. "This," again to quote Mr. Ford, "was probably an abridged edition of a book bearing the same title, printed in London, with the expressed design of bringing up children in an aversion to Popery." In Protestant New England the author's purpose naturally called forth profound approbation, and in "Green's edition of the Tutor lay the germ of the great picture alphabet of our fore-fathers."[14-A] The author, Benjamin Harris, had immigrated to Boston for personal reasons, and coming in contact with the residents, saw the latent possibilities in "The Protestant Tutor." "To make it more salable," writes Mr. Ford in "The New England Primer," "the school-book character was increased, while to give it an even better chance of success by an appeal to local pride it was rechristened and came forth under the now famous title of 'The New England Primer.'"[14-B]

A careful examination of the titles contained in the first volume of Evans's "American Bibliography" shows how exactly this infant's primer represented the spirit of the times. This chronological list of American imprints of the first one hundred years of the colonial press is largely a record in type of the religious activity of the country, and is impressive as a witness to the obedience of the press to the law of supply and demand. With the Puritan appetite for a grim religion served in sermons upon every subject, ornamented and seasoned with supposedly apt Scriptural quotations, a demand was created for printed discourses to be read and inwardly digested at home. This demand the printers supplied. Amid such literary conditions the primer came as light food for infants' minds, and as such was accepted by parents to impress religious ideas when teaching the alphabet.

It is not by any means certain that the first edition of this great primer of our ancestors contained illustrations, as engravers were few in America before the eighteenth century. Yet it seems altogether probable that they were introduced early in the next century, as by seventeen hundred and seventeen Benjamin Harris, Jr., had printed in Boston "The Holy Bible in Verse," containing cuts identical with those in "The New England Primer" of a somewhat later date, and these pictures could well have served as illustrations for both these books for children's use, profit, and pleasure. At all events, the thorough approval by parents and clergy of this small school-book soon brought to many a household the novelty of a real picture-book.

Hitherto little children had been perforce content with the few illustrations the adult books offered. Now the printing of this tiny volume, with its curious black pictures accompanying the text of religious instruction, catechism, and alphabets, marked the milestone on the long lane that eventually led to the well-drawn pictures in the modern books for children.

It is difficult at so late a day to estimate correctly the pleasure this famous picture alphabet brought to the various colonial households. What the original illustrations were like can only be inferred from those in "The Holy Bible in Verse," and in the later editions of the primer itself. In the Bible Adam (or is it Eve?) stands pointing to a tree around which a serpent is coiled. By seventeen hundred and thirty-seven the engraver was sufficiently skilled to represent two figures, who stand as colossal statues on either side of the tree whose fruit had such disastrous effects. However, at a time when art criticism had no terrors for the engraver, it could well have been a delight to many a family of little ones to gaze upon

"The Lion bold The Lamb doth hold"

and to speculate upon the exact place where the lion ended and the lamb began. The wholly religious character of the book was no drawback to its popularity, for the two great diaries of the time show how absolutely religion permeated the atmosphere surrounding both old and young.

Cotton Mather's diary gives various glimpses of his dealing with his own and other people's children. His son Increase, or "Cressy," as he was affectionately called, seems to have been particularly unresponsive to religious coercion. Mather's method, however, appears to have been more efficacious with the younger members of his family, and of Elizabeth and Samuel (seven years of age) he wrote: "My two younger children shall before the Psalm and prayer answer a Quaestion in the catechism; and have their Leaves ready turned unto the proofs of the Answer in the Bible; which they shall distinctly read unto us, and show what they prove. This also shall supply a fresh matter for prayer." Again he tells of his table talk: "Tho' I will have my table talk facetious as well as instructive ... yett I will have the Exercise continually intermixed. I will set before them some sentence of the Bible, and make some useful Remarks upon it." Other people's children he taught as occasion offered; even when "on the Road in the Woods," he wrote on another day, "I, being desirous to do some Good, called some little children ... and bestowed some Instruction with a little Book upon them." To children accustomed to instruction at all hours, the amusement found in the pages of the primer was far greater than in any other book printed in the colonies for years.

Certain titles indicate the nature of the meagre juvenile literary fare in the beginning of the new eighteenth century. In seventeen hundred Nicholas Boone, in his "Shop over against the old Meeting-house" in Boston, reprinted Janeway's "Token for Children." To this was added by the Boston printer a "Token for the children of New England, or some examples of children in whom the fear of God was remarkably budding when they dyed; in several parts of New England." Of course its author, the Reverend Mr. Mather, found colonial "examples" as deeply religious as any that the mother country could produce; but there is for us a grim humor in these various incidents concerning pious and precocious infants "of thin habit and pale countenance," whose pallor became that of death at so early an age. If it was by the repetition of such tales that the Puritan divine strove to convert Cressy, it may well be that the son considered it better policy, since Death claimed the little saints, to remain a sinner.

By seventeen hundred and six two juvenile books appeared from the press of Timothy Green in Boston. The first, "A LITTLE BOOK for children wherein are set down several directions for little children: and several remarkable stories both ancient and modern of little children, divers whereof are lately deceased," was a reprint from an English book of the same title, and therefore has not in this chronicle the interest of the second book. The purpose of its publication is given in Mather's diary:

[1706] 22d. Im. Friday.

About this Time sending my little son to School, Where ye Child was Learning to Read, I did use every morning for diverse months, to Write in a plain Hand for the Child, and send thither by him, a Lesson in Verse, to be not only read, but also Gott by Heart. My proposal was to have the Child improve in goodness, at the same time that he improved in Reading. Upon further Thoughts I apprehended that a Collection of some of them would be serviceable to ye Good Education of other children. So I lett ye printer take them & print them, in some hope of some Help to thereby contributed unto that great Intention of a Good Education. The book is entituled Good Lessons for Children; or Instruction provided for a little Son to learn at School, when learning to Read.

Although this small book lives only by record, it is safe to assume from the extracts of the author's diary already quoted, that it lacked every quality of amusement, and was adapted only to those whom he described, in a sermon preached before the Governor and Council, as "verie Sharpe and early Ripe in their capacities." "Good Lessons" has the distinction of being the first American book to be composed, like many a modern publication, for a particular young child; and, with its purpose "to improve in goodness," struck clearly the keynote of the greater part of all writing for children during the succeeding one hundred and seventy-five years.

The first glimpse of the amusement book proper appears in that unique "History of Printing in America," by Isaiah Thomas. This describes, among other old printers, one Thomas Fleet, who established himself in Boston about 1713. "At first," wrote Mr. Thomas, "he printed pamphlets for booksellers, small books for children and ballads" in Pudding Lane.[19-A] "He owned several negroes, one of which ... was an ingenious man and cut on wooden blocks all the pictures which decorated the ballads and small books for his master."[19-B] As corroborative of these statements Thomas also mentions Thomas Fleet, Sr., as "the putative compiler of Mother Goose Melodies, which he first published in 1719, bearing the title of 'Songs for the Nursery.'"

Much discussion has arisen as to the earliest edition of Mother Goose. Thomas's suggestion as to the origin of the first American edition has been of late years relegated to the region of myth. Nevertheless, there is something to be said in favor of the existence of some book of nonsense at that time. The Boston "News Letter" for April 12-19, 1739, contained a criticism of Tate and Brady's version of the Psalms, in which the reviewer wrote that in Psalm VI the translators used the phrase, "a wretch forlorn." He added: "(1) There is nothing of this in the original or the English Psalter. (2) 'Tis a low expression and to add a low one is the less allowable. But (3) what I am most concerned for is, that it will be apt to make our Children think of the line in their vulgar Play song; much like it, 'This is the maiden all forlorn.'" We recognize at once a reference to our nursery friend of the "House that Jack Built;" and if this and "Tom Thumb" were sold in Boston, why should not other ditties have been among the chap-books which Thomas remembered to have set up when a 'prentice lad in the printing-house of Zechariah Fowle, who in turn had copied some issued previously by Thomas Fleet? In further confirmation of Thomas's statement is a paragraph in the preface to an edition of Mother Goose, published in Boston in 1833, by Monroe & Francis. The editor traces the origin of these rhymes to a London book entitled, "Rhymes for the Nursery or Lullabies for Children," "that," he writes, "contained many of the identical pieces handed down to us." He continues: "The first book of the kind known to be printed in this country bears [the italics are mine] the title, 'Songs for the Nursery: or Mother Goose's Melodies for Children.' Something probably intended to represent a goose, with a very long neck and mouth wide open, covered a large part of the title-page; at the bottom of which was: 'Printed by T. Fleet, at his printing house, Pudding Lane (Boston) 1719.' Several pages were missing, so that the whole number could not be ascertained." The editor clearly writes as if he had either seen, or heard accurately described, this piece of Americana, which the bibliophile to-day would consider a treasure trove. Later writers doubt whether any such book existed, for it is hardly credible that the Puritan element which so largely composed the population of Boston in the first quarter of the eighteenth century would have encouraged the printing of any nonsensical jingles.

Boston, however, was not at this time the only place in the colonies where primers and religious books were written and printed. In Philadelphia, Andrew Bradford, famous as the founder of the "American Weekly Mercury," had in 1714 put through his press, probably upon subscription, the "Last Words and Dyeing Expressions of Hannah Hill, aged 11 years and near three Months." This morbid account of the death of a little Quakeress furnished the Philadelphia children with a book very similar to Mather's "Token." Not to be outdone by any precocious example in Pennsylvania, the Reverend Mr. Mather soon found an instance of "Early Piety in Elizabeth Butcher of Boston, being just 8 years and 11 months old," when she died in 1718. In two years two editions of her life had been issued "to instruct and to invite little children to the exercise of early piety."

Such mortuary effusions were so common at the time that Benjamin Franklin's witty skit upon them is apropos in this connection. In 1719, at the age of sixteen, under the pseudonym of Mrs. Dogood, he wrote a series of letters for his brother's paper, "The New England Courant." From the following extract, taken from these letters, it is evident that these children's "Last Words" followed the prevailing fashion:

A Receipt to make a New England Funeral Elegy.

For the title of your Elegy. Of these you may have enough ready made at your Hands: But if you should chuse to make it yourself you must be sure not to omit the Words Aetatis Suae, which will beautify it exceedingly.

For the subject of your Elegy. Take one of your neighbors who has lately departed this life; it is no great matter at what age the Party Dy'd, but it will be best if he went away suddenly, being Kill'd, Drown'd or Froze to Death.

Having chosen the Person, take all his Virtues, Excellencies, &c. and if he have not enough, you may borrow some to make up a sufficient Quantity: To these add his last Words, dying Expressions, &c. if they are to be had: mix all these together, and be sure you strain them well. Then season all with a Handful or two of Melancholy Expressions, such as Dreadful, Dreadly, cruel, cold, Death, unhappy, Fate, weeping Eyes, &c. Having mixed all these Ingredients well, put them in an empty Scull of some young Harvard; (but in case you have ne'er a One at Hand, you may use your own,) then let them Ferment for the Space of a Fortnight, and by that Time they will be incorporated into a Body, which take out and having prepared a sufficient Quantity of double Rhimes, such as Power, Flower; Quiver, Shiver; Grieve us, Leave us; tell you, excel you; Expeditions, Physicians; Fatigue him, Intrigue him; &c. you must spread all upon Paper, and if you can procure a Scrap of Latin to put at the End, it will garnish it mightily: then having affixed your Name at the bottom with a Maestus Composuit, you will have an Excellent Elegy.

N.B. This Receipt will serve when a Female is the subject of your Elegy, provided you borrow a greater Quantity of Virtues, Excellencies &c.

Of other original books for children of colonial parents in the first quarter of that century, "A Looking-glass" did but mirror more religious episodes concerning infants, while Mather in his zeal had also published "An Earnest Exhortation" to New England children, and "The A, B, C, of religion. Fitted unto the youngest and lowest capacities." To this, taking advantage of the use of rhymes, he appended further instruction, including "The Body of Divinity versified." With our knowledge of the clergyman's methods with his congregation it is not difficult to imagine that he insisted upon the purchase of these godly aids for every household.

In attempting to reproduce the conditions of family life in the early settlements and towns of colonial days, we turn quite naturally to the newspapers, whose appearance in the first quarter of the eighteenth century was gladly welcomed by the people of their time, and whose files are now eagerly searched for items of great or small importance. Indeed, much information can be gathered from their advertisements, which often filled the major part of these periodicals. Apparently shop-keepers were keen to take advantage of such space as was reserved for them, as sometimes a marginal note informed the public that other advertisements must wait for the next issue to appear.

Booksellers' announcements, however, are not too frequent in Boston papers, and are noticeably lacking in the early issues of the Philadelphia "Weekly Mercury." This dearth of book-news accounts for the difficulty experienced by book-lovers of that town in procuring literature—a lack noticed at once by the wide-awake young Franklin upon his arrival in the city, and recorded in his biography as follows:

"At the time I established myself in Pennsylvania [1728] there was not a bookseller's shop in any of the colonies to the southward of Boston. In New York and Phil'a the printers were indeed stationers; they sold only paper, etc., ballads, and a few books. Those who lov'd reading were obliged to send for their books from London."

Franklin undertook to better this condition by opening a shop for the sale of foreign books. Both he and his rival in journalism, Andrew Bradford, had stationer's shops, in which were to be had besides "Good Writing Paper; Cyphering Slates; Ink Powders, etc., Chapmens Books and Ballads." Bradford also advertised in seventeen hundred and thirty that all persons could be supplied with "Primers and small Histories of many sorts." "Small histories" were probably chap-books, which, hawked about the country by peddlers or chapmen, contained tales of "Fair Rosamond," "Jane Grey," "Tom Thumb" or "Tom Hick-a-Thrift," and though read by old and young, were hardly more suitable for juvenile reading than the religious elegies then so popular. These chap-books were sold in considerable quantities on account of their cheapness, and included religious subjects as well as tales of adventure.

One of the earliest examples of this chap-book literature, thought suitable for children, was printed in the colonies by the press of Thomas Fleet, already mentioned as a printer of small books. This book of 1736, being intended for ready sale, was such as every Puritan would buy for the family library. Entitled "The Prodigal Daughter," it told in Psalm-book metre of a "proud, vain girl, who, because her parents would not indulge her in all her extravagances, bargained with the devil to poisen them." The parents, however, were warned by an angel of her intentions:

"One night her parents sleeping were in bed Nothing but troubled dreams run in their head, At length an angel did to them appear Saying awake, and unto me give ear. A messenger I'm sent by Heaven kind To let you know your lives are both design'd; Your graceless child, whom you love so dear, She for your precious lives hath laid a snare. To poison you the devil tempts her so, She hath no power from the snare to go: But God such care doth of his servants take, Those that believe on Him He'll not forsake.

"You must not use her cruel or severe, For though these things to you I do declare, It is to show you what the Lord can do, He soon can turn her heart, you'll find it so."

The daughter, discovered in her attempt to poison their food, was reproached by the mother for her evil intention and swooned. Every effort failed to "bring her spirits to revive:"

"Four days they kept her, when they did prepare To lay her body in the dust we hear, At her funeral a sermon then was preach'd, All other wicked children for to teach.... But suddenly they bitter groans did hear Which much surprized all that then were there. At length they did observe the dismal sound Came from the body just laid in the ground."

The Puritan pride in funeral display is naively exhibited in the portrayal of the girl when she "in her coffin sat, and did admire her winding sheet," before she related her experiences "among lonesome wild deserts and briary woods, which dismal were and dark." But immediately after her description of the lake of burning misery and of the fierce grim Tempter, the Puritan matter-of-fact acceptance of it all is suggested by the concluding lines:

"When thus her story she to them had told, She said, put me to bed for I am cold."

The illustrations of a later edition entered thoroughly into the spirit of the author's intent. The contemporary opinion of the French character is quaintly shown in the portrait of the Devil dressed as a French gentleman, his cloven foot discovering his identity. Whatever deficiencies are revealed in these early attempts to illustrate, they invariably expressed the artist's purpose, and in this case the Devil, after the girl's conversion, is drawn in lines very acceptable to Puritan children's idea of his personality.

Almanacs also were in demand, and furnished parents and children, in many cases, with their entire library for week-day reading. "Successive numbers hung from a string by the chimney or ranked by years and generations on cupboard shelves."[26-A] But when Franklin made "Poor Richard" an international success, he, by giving short extracts from Swift, Steele, Defoe, and Bacon, accustomed the provincial population, old and young, to something better than the meagre religious fare provided by the colonial press.

Such, then, were the literary conditions for children when an advertisement inserted in the "Weekly Mercury" gave promise of better days for the little Philadelphians.[26-B] Strangely enough, this attempt to make learning seem attractive to children did not appear in the booksellers' lists; but crowded in between Tandums, Holland Tapes, London Steel, and good Muscavado Sugar,—"Guilt horn books" were advertised by Joseph Sims in 1740 as "for sale on reasonable Terms for Cash."

Horn-books in themselves were only too common, and not in the least delightful. Made of thin wood, whereon was placed a printed sheet of paper containing the alphabet and Lord's Prayer, a horn-book was hardly, properly speaking, a book at all. But when the printed page was covered with yellowish transparent horn, secured to the wooden back by strips of brass, it furnished an economical and practically indestructible elementary text-book for thousands of English-speaking children on both sides of the Atlantic. Sometimes an effort was also made to guard against the inconvenient faculty of children for losing school-books, by attaching a cord, which, passing through a hole in the handle of the board, was hung around the scholar's neck. But since nothing is proof against the ingenuity of a schoolboy, many were successfully disposed of. Although printed by thousands, few in England or in America have survived the century that has elapsed since they were used. Occasionally, in tearing down an old building, one of these horn-books has been found; dropped in a convenient hole, it has remained secure from parents' sight, until brought to light by workmen and prized as a curiosity by grown people of the present generation. This notice of little gilt horn-books was inserted in the "Weekly Mercury" but once. Whether the supply was quickly exhausted, or whether they did not prove a successful novelty, can never be known; but at least they herald the approach of the little gilt story-books which ten years later were to make the name of John Newbery well known in English households, and hardly less familiar in the American colonies.

So far the only attractions to induce children to read have been through the pictures in the Primer of New England, and by the gilding of the horn-book. From further south comes the first note of amusement in reading, as well as the first expression of pleasure from the children themselves in regard to a book. In 1741, in Virginia, two letters were written and received by R.H. Lee and George Washington. These letters, which afford the first in any way authentic account of tales of real entertainment, are given by Mr. Lossing in "The Home of Washington," and tell their own tale:

[Richard Henry Lee to George Washington]

PA brought me two pretty books full of pictures he got them in Alexandria they have pictures of dogs and cats and tigers and elefants and ever so many pretty things cousin bids me send you one of them it has a picture of an elefant and a little indian boy on his back like uncle jo's Sam pa says if I learn my tasks good he will let uncle jo bring me to see you will you ask your ma to let you come to see me.


[G. Washington to R.H. Lee]

DEAR DICKEY—I thank you very much for the pretty picture book you gave me. Sam asked me to show him the pictures and I showed him all the pictures in it; and I read to him how the tame Elephant took care of the Master's little boy, and put him on his back and would not let anybody touch his master's little son. I can read three or four pages sometimes without missing a word.... I have a little piece of poetry about the picture book you gave me but I mustn't tell you who wrote the poetry.

G.W.'s compliments to R.H.L. And likes his book full well, Henceforth will count him his friend And hopes many happy days he may spend.

Your good friend GEORGE WASHINGTON.

In a note Mr. Lossing states that he had copies of these two letters, sent him by a Mr. Lee, who wrote: "The letter of Richard Henry Lee was written by himself, and uncorrected sent by him to his boy friend George Washington. The poetical effusion was, I have heard, written by a Mr. Howard, a gentleman who used to visit at the house of Mr. Washington."

It would be gratifying to know the titles of these two books, so evidently English chap-book tales. It is probable that they were imported by a shop-keeper in Alexandria, as in seventeen hundred and forty-one there was only one press in Virginia, owned by William Sharps, who had moved from Annapolis in seventeen hundred and thirty-six. Luxuries were so much more common among the Virginia planters, and life was so much more roseate in hue than was the case in the northern colonies, that it seems most natural that two southern boys should have left the earliest account of any real story-books. Though unfortunately nameless, they at least form an interesting coincidence. Bought in seventeen hundred and forty-one, they follow just one hundred years later than the meeting of the General Court, which was responsible for the preparation of Cotton's "Milk for Babes," and precede by a century the date when an American story-book literature was recognized as very different from that written for English children.


[6-A] Records of Mass. Bay, vol. i, p. 37 h.

[6-B] Ibid., vol. i, p. 37 e.

[6-C] Ford, The New England Primer, p. 83.

[6-D] Records of Mass. Bay, vol. i, p. 328.

[7-A] Ford, The New England Primer, p. 92.

[7-B] Ibid.

[11-A] In the possession of the British Museum.

[14-A] Ford, The New England Primer, p. 38.

[14-B] Ibid.

[19-A] Thomas, History of Printing in America, vol. iii, p. 145.

[19-B] Ibid., vol. i, p. 294.

[26-A] Sears, American Literature, p. 86.

[26-B] Although this appears to be the first advertisement of gilt horn-books in Philadelphia papers, an inventory of the estate of Michael Perry, a Boston bookseller, made in seventeen hundred, includes sixteen dozen gilt horn-books.



He who learns his letters fair, Shall have a coach and take the air. Royal Primer, Newbery, 1762

Our king the good No man of blood. The New England Primer, 1762



The Play-Book in England

The vast horde of story-books so constantly poured into modern nurseries makes it difficult to realize that the library of the early colonial child consisted of such books as have been already described. The juvenile books to-day are multiform. The quantities displayed upon shop-counters or ranged upon play-room shelves include a variety of subjects bewildering to all but those whose business necessitates a knowledge of this kind of literature. For the little child there is no lack of gayly colored pictures and short tales in large print; for the older boys and girls there lies a generous choice, ranging from Bunny stories to Jungle Books, or they

"May see how all things are, Seas and cities near and far. And the flying fairies' looks In the picture story-books."

The contrast is indeed extreme between that scanty fare of dull sermons and "The New England Primer" given to the little people of the early eighteenth century, and this superabundance prepared with lavish care for the nation of American children.

The beginning of this complex juvenile literature is, therefore, to be regarded as a comparatively modern invention of about seventeen hundred and forty-five. From that date can be traced the slow growth of a literature written with an avowed intention of furnishing amusement as well as instruction; and in the toy-books published one hundred and fifty years ago are found the prototypes of the present modes of bringing fun and knowledge to the American fireside.

The question at once arises as to the reason why this literature came into existence; why was it that children after seventeen hundred and fifty should have been favored in a way unknown to their parents?

To even the casual reader of English literature the answer is plain, if this subject of toy-books be regarded as of near kin to the larger body of writing. It has been somewhat the custom to consider children's literature as a thing wholly apart from that of adults, probably because the majority of the authors of these little tales have so generally lacked the qualities indispensable for any true literary work. In reality the connection between the two is somewhat like that of parent and child; the smaller body, though lacking in power, has closely imitated the larger mass of writing in form and kind, and has reflected, sometimes clearly, sometimes dimly, the good or bad fashions that have shared the successive periods of literary history, like a child who unconsciously reproduces a parent's foibles or excellences.

It is to England, then, that we must look to find the conditions out of which grew the necessity for this modern invention—the story-book.

The love of stories has been the splendid birthright of every child in all ages and in all lands. "Stories," wrote Thackeray,—"stories exist everywhere; there is no calculating the distance through which the stories have come to us, the number of languages through which they have been filtered, or the centuries during which they have been told. Many of them have been narrated almost in their present shape for thousands of years to the little copper-coloured Sanscrit children, listening to their mothers under the palm-trees by the banks of the yellow Jumna—their Brahmin mother, who softly narrated them through the ring in her nose. The very same tale has been heard by the Northern Vikings as they lay on their shields on deck; and the Arabs couched under the stars on the Syrian plains when their flocks were gathered in, and their mares were picketed by the tents." This picturesque description leads exactly to the point to be emphasized: that children shared in the simple tales of their people as long as those tales retained their freshness and simplicity; but when, as in England in the eighteenth century, the literature lost these qualities and became artificial, critical, and even skeptical, it lost its charm for the little ones and they no longer cared to listen to it.

Fashion and taste were then alike absorbed in the works of Dryden, Pope, Addison, Steele, and Swift, and the novels from the pens of Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett had begun to claim and to hold the attention of the English reading public. The children, however, could neither comprehend nor enjoy the witty criticism and subtle treatment of the topics discussed by the older men, although, as will be seen in another chapter, the novels became, in both the original and in the abridged forms, the delight of many a "young master and miss." Meanwhile, in the American colonies the people who could afford to buy books inherited their taste for literature as well as for tea from the Puritans and fashionables in the mother country; although it is a fact familiar to all, that the works of the comparatively few native authors lagged, in spirit and in style, far behind the writings of Englishmen of the time.

The reading of one who was a boy in the older era of the urbane Addison and the witty Pope, and a man in the newer period of the novelists, is well described in Benjamin Franklin's autobiography. "All the little money," wrote that book-lover, "that came into my hands was laid out in books. Pleased with the Pilgrim's Progress, my collection was of John Bunyan's works in separate volumes. I afterwards sold them to buy R. Burton's Historical Collections; they were Chapmen's books, and cheap, 40 or 50 in all."

Burton's "Historical Collections" contained history, travels, adventures, fiction, natural history, and biography. So great was the favor in which they were held in the eighteenth century that the compiler, Nathaniel Crouch, almost lost his identity in his pseudonym, and like the late Mr. Clemens, was better known by his nom-de-plume than by his family name. According to Dunton, he "melted down the best of the English histories into twelve-penny books, which are filled with wonders, rarities and curiosities." Although characterized by Dr. Johnson as "very proper to allure backward readers," the contents of many of the various books afforded the knowledge and entertainment eagerly grasped by Franklin and other future makers of the American nation. The scarcity of historical works concerning the colonies made Burton's account of the "English Empire in America" at once a mine of interest to wide-awake boys of the day. Number VIII, entitled "Winter Evenings' Entertainment," was long a source of amusement with its stories and riddles, and its title was handed down to other books of a similar nature. To children, however, the best-known volume of the series was Burton's illustrated versification of Bible stories called "The Youth's Divine Pastime." But the subjects chosen by Burton were such as belonged to a very plain-spoken age; and as the versifier was no euphuist in his relation of facts, the result was a remarkable "Pastime for Youth." The literature read by English children was, of course, the same; the little ones of both countries ate of the same tree of knowledge of facts, often either silly or revolting.

To deliver the younger and future generations from such unpalatable and indigestible mental food, there was soon to appear in London a man, John Newbery by name, who, already a printer, publisher, and vendor of patent medicines, seized the opportunity to issue stories written especially for the amusement of little children.

While Newbery was making his plans to provide pleasure for young folks in England, in the colonies the idea of a child's need of recreation through books was slowly gaining ground. It is well to note the manner in which the little colonists were prepared to receive Newbery's books as recreative features crept gradually into the very few publications of which there is record.

In seventeen hundred and forty-five native talent was still entirely confined to writing for little people lugubrious sermons or discourses delivered on Sunday and "Catechize days," and afterwards printed for larger circulation. The reprints from English publications were such exotics as, "A Poesie out of Mr. Dod's Garden," an alluring title, which did not in the least deceive the small colonials as to the religious nature of its contents.

In New York the Dutch element, until the advent of Garrat Noel, paid so little attention to the subject of juvenile literature that the popularity of Watts's "Divine Songs" (issued by an Englishman) is well attested by the fact that at present it is one of the very few child's books of any kind recorded as printed in that city before 1760. But in Boston, old Thomas Fleet, in 1741, saw the value of the element of some entertainment in connection with reading, and, when he published "The Parents' Gift, containing a choice collection of God's judgments and Mercies," lives of the Evangelists, and other religious matter, he added a "variety of pleasant Pictures proper for the Entertainment of Children." This is, perhaps, the first printed acknowledgment in America that pictures were commendable to parents because entertaining to their offspring. Such an idea put into words upon paper and advertised in so well-read a sheet as the "Boston Evening Post," must surely have impressed fathers and mothers really solicitous for the family welfare and anxious to provide harmless pleasure. This pictorial element was further encouraged by Franklin, when, in 1747, he reprinted, probably for the first time in this country, "Dilworth's New Guide to the English Tongue." In this school-book, after the alphabets and spelling lessons, a special feature was introduced, that is, illustrated "Select Fables." The cuts at the top of each fable possess an added interest from the supposition that they were engraved by the printer himself; and the constant use of the "Guide" by colonial school-masters and mistresses made their pupils unconsciously quite ready for more illustrated and fewer homiletic volumes.

Indeed, before the middle of the century pictures had become an accepted feature of the few juvenile books, and "The History of the Holy Jesus" versified for little ones was issued by at least two old Boston printers in 1747 and 1748 with more than a dozen cuts. Among the rare extant copies of this small chap-book is one that, although torn and disfigured by tiny fingers and the century and a half since it pleased its first owner, bears the personal touch of this inscription "Ebenezer ... Bought June ... 1749 ... price 0=2=d." Was the price marked upon its page as a reminder that two shillings was a large price to pay for a boy's book? Perhaps for this reason it received the careful handling that has enabled us to examine it, when so many of its contemporaries and successors have vanished.

The versified story, notwithstanding its quaintness of diction, begins with a dignified directness:

"The glorious blessed Time had come, The Father had decreed, Jesus of Mary there was born, And in a Manger laid."

At the end are two Hymns, entitled "Delight in the Lord Jesus," and "Absence from Christ intolerable." The final stanza is typical of one Puritan doctrine:

"The Devil throws his fiery Darts, And wicked Ones do act their parts, To ruin me when Christ is gone, And leaves me all alone."

The woodcuts are not the least interesting feature of this old-time duodecimo, from the picture showing the mother reading to her children to the illustration of the quaking of the earth on the day of the crucifixion. Crude and badly drawn as they now seem, they were surely sufficient to attract the child of their generation.

About the same time old Zechariah Fowle, who apprenticed Isaiah Thomas, and both printed and vended chap-books in Back Street, Boston, advertised among his list of books "Lately Publish'd" this same small book, together with "A Token for Youth," the "Life and Death of Elizabeth Butcher," "A Preservative from the Sins and Follies of Childhood and Youth," "The Prodigal Daughter," "The Happy Child," and "The New Gift for Children with Cuts." Of these "The New Gift" was certainly a real story-book, as one of a later edition still extant readily proves.

Thus the children in both countries were prepared to enjoy Newbery's miniature story-books, although for somewhat different reasons: in England the literature had reached a point too artificial to be interesting to little ones; in America the product of the press and the character of the majority of the juvenile importations, the reprints, or home-made chap-books, has been shown to be such as would hardly attract those who were to be the future arbiters of the colonies' destiny.

The reasons for the coming to light of this new form of infant literature have been dwelt upon in order to show the necessity for some change in the kind of reading-matter to be put in the hands of the younger members of the family. The natural order of consideration is next to point out the phase it assumed upon its appearance in England,—a phase largely due to the influence of one man,—and once there, the modifications effected by the fashions in adult fiction.

Although there was already much interest in the education and welfare of children still in the nursery, the character of the first play-books was probably due to the esteem in which the opinions of the philosopher, John Locke, were held. He it was who gradually moved the vane of public opinion around to serious consideration of recreation as a factor in the well-being of these nursery inmates. Although it took time for Locke's ideas upon the subject to sink into the public mind, it is impossible to compare one of the first attempts to produce a play-book, "The Child's New Play-thing," with the advice written to his friend, Edward Clarke, without feeling that the progress from the religious books to primers and readers (such as "Dilworth's Guide"), and then onward to story-books, was largely the result of the publication of his letters under the title of "Thoughts on Education."

In these letters Locke took an extraordinary course: he first made a quaint plea for the general welfare of Mr. Clarke's little son. "I imagine," he wrote, "the minds of children are as easily turned this or that way as Water itself, and though this be the principal Part, and our main Care should be about the inside, yet the Clay Cottage is not to be neglected. I shall therefore begin with the case, and consider first the Health of the body." Under Health he discussed clothing, including thin shoes, "that they may leak and let in Water." A pause was then made to show the benefits of wet feet as against the apparent disadvantages of filthy stockings and muddy boots; for mothers even in that time were inclined to consider their floors and steps. Bathing next received attention. Bathing every day in cold water, Locke regarded as exceedingly desirable; no exceptions were to be made, even in the case of a "puleing and tender" child. The beneficial effects of air, sunlight, the establishment of good conduct, diet, sleep, and "physick" were all discussed by the doctor and philosopher, before the development of the mind was touched upon. "Education," he wrote, "concerns itself with the forming of Children's Minds, giving them that seasoning early, which shall influence their Lives later." This seasoning referred to the training of children in matters pertaining to their general government and to the reverence of parents. For the Puritan population it was undoubtedly a shock to find Locke interesting himself in, and moreover advocating, dancing as a part of a child's education; and worst of all, that he should mention it before their hobby, LEARNING. In this connection it is worth while to make mention of a favorite primer, which, published about the middle of the eighteenth century, was entitled "The Hobby Horse." Locke was quite aware that his method would be criticised, and therefore took the bull by the horns in the following manner. He admitted that to put the subject of learning last was a cause for wonder, "especially if I tell you I think it the least part. This may seem strange in the mouth of a bookish man, and this making usually the chief, if not only bustle and stir about children; this being almost that alone, which is thought on, when People talk about Education, make it the greater Paradox." An unusual piece of advice it most surely was to parents to whose children came the task of learning to read as soon as they were given spoon-food.

Even more revolutionary to the custom of an eighteenth century mother was the admonition that reading "be never made a Task." Locke, however, was not the man to urge a cure for a bad habit without prescribing a remedy, so he went on to say that it was always his "Fancy that Learning be made a Play and Recreation to Children"—a "Fancy" at present much in vogue. To accomplish this desirable result, "Dice and Play-things with the Letters on them" were recommended to teach children the alphabet; "and," he added, "twenty other ways may be found ... to make this kind of Learning a Sport to them." Letter-blocks were in this way made popular, and formed the approved and advanced method until in these latter days pedagogy has swept aside the letter-blocks and syllabariums and carried the sport to word-pictures.

This theory had a practical result in the introduction to many households of "The Child's New Play-thing." This book, already mentioned, was printed in England in seventeen hundred and forty-three, and dedicated to Prince George. In seventeen hundred and forty-four we find through the "Boston Evening Post" of January 23 that the third edition was sold by Joseph Edwards, in Cornhill, and it was probably from this edition that the first American edition was printed in seventeen hundred and fifty. From the following description of this American reprint (one of which is happily in the Lenox Collection), it will be seen that the "Play-thing" was an attempt to follow Locke's advice, as well as a connecting link between the primer of the past and the story-book of the near future.

The title, which the illustration shows, reads, "The Child's New Play-thing being a spelling-book intended to make Learning to read a diversion instead of a task. Consisting of Scripture-histories, fables, stories, moral and religious precepts, proverbs, songs, riddles, dialogues, &c. The whole adapted to the capacities of children, and divided into lessons of one, two, three and four syllables. The fourth edition. To which is added three dialogues; 1. Shewing how a little boy shall make every body love him. 2. How a little boy shall grow wiser than the rest of his school-fellows. 3. How a little boy shall become a great man. Designed for the use of schools, or for children before they go to school."

Coverless and faded, hard usage is written in unmistakable characters upon this play-thing of a whole family. Upon a fly-leaf are the autographs of "Ebenezer Ware and Sarah Ware, Their Book," and upon another page these two names with the addition of the signatures of "Ichabod Ware and Cyrus Ware 1787." One parent may have used it when it was fresh from the press of Draper & Edwards in Boston; then, through enforced economy, handed it down to the next generation, who doubtless scorned the dedication so eminently proper in seventeen hundred and fifty, so thoroughly out of place thirty-seven years later. There it stands in large black type:

To his ROYAL HIGHNESS PRINCE GEORGE This Little Play-thing is most humbly dedicated By His ROYAL HIGHNESS'S Devoted Servant

Of especial interest are the alphabets in "Roman, Italian, and English Names" on the third page, while page four contains the dear old alphabet in rhyme, fortunately not altogether forgotten in this prosaic age. We recognize it as soon as we see it.

"A Apple-Pye B bit it C cut it,"

and involuntarily add, D divided it. After the spelling lessons came fables, proverbs, and the splendid "Stories proper to raise the Attention and excite the Curiosity of Children" of any age; namely, "St. George and the Dragon," "Fortunatus," "Guy of Warwick," "Brother and Sister," "Reynard the Fox," "The Wolf and the Kid." "The Good Dr. Watts," writes Mrs. Field, "is supposed to have had a hand in the composition of this toy book especially in the stories, one of which is quite in the style of the old hymn writer." Here it is:

"Once on a time two dogs went out to walk. Tray was a good dog, and would not hurt the least thing in the world, but Snap was cross, and would snarl and bite at all that came in his way. At last they came to a town. All the dogs came round them. Tray hurt none of them, but Snap would grin at one, snarl at the next, and bite a third, till at last they fell on him and tore him limb from limb, and as poor Tray was with him, he met with his death at the same time.


"By this fable you see how dangerous it is to be in company with bad boys. Tray was a quiet harmless dog, and hurt nobody, but, &c."[45-A]

Thus we find that Locke sowed the seed, Watts watered the soil in which the seed fell, and that Newbery, after mixing in ideas from his very fertile brain, soon reaped a golden harvest from the crop of readers, picture-books, and little histories which he, with the aid of certain well-known authors, produced.

According to his biographer, Mr. Charles Welsh, John Newbery was born in a quaint parish of England in seventeen hundred and thirteen. Although his father was only a small farmer, Newbury inherited his bookish tastes from an ancestor, Ralph or Rafe Newbery, who had been a great publisher of the sixteenth century. Showing no inclination toward the life of a farmer, the boy, at sixteen, had already entered the shop of a merchant in Reading. The name of this merchant is not known, but inference points to Mr. Carnan, printer, proprietor, and editor of one of the earliest provincial newspapers. In seventeen hundred and thirty-seven, at the death of Carnan, John Newbery, then about twenty-four years of age, found himself one of the proprietor's heirs and an executor of the estate. Carnan left a widow, to whom, to quote her son, Newbery's "love of books and acquirements as a printer rendered him very acceptable." The amiable and well-to-do widow and Newbery were soon married, and their youngest son, Francis Newbery, eventually succeeded his father in the business of publishing.

Shortly after Newbery's marriage his ambition and enterprise resulted in the establishment of his family in London, where, in seventeen hundred and forty-four, he opened a warehouse at The Bible and Crown, near Devereux Court, without Temple Bar. Meanwhile he had associated himself with Benjamin Collins, a printer in Salisbury. Collins both planned and printed some of Newbery's toy volumes, and his name likewise was well-known to shop-keepers in the colonies. Newbery soon found that his business warranted another move nearer to the centre of trade. He therefore combined two establishments into one at the now celebrated corner of St. Paul's Churchyard, and at the same time decided to confine his attention exclusively to book publishing and medicine vending.

Before his departure from Devereux Court, Newbery had published at least one book for juvenile readers. The title reads: "Little Pretty Pocket-Book, intended for the instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly, with an agreeable Letter to read from Jack the Giant Killer, as also a Ball and Pincushion, the use of which will infallibly make Tommy a good Boy, and Polly a good Girl. To the whole is prefixed a letter on education humbly addressed to all Parents, Guardians, Governesses, &c., wherein rules are laid down for making their children strong, healthy, virtuous, wise and happy." To this extraordinarily long title were added couplets from Dryden and Pope, probably because extracts from these poets were usually placed upon the title-page of books for grown people; possibly also in order to give a finish to miniature volumes that would be like the larger publications. A wholly simple method of writing title-pages never came into even Newbery's original mind; he did for the juvenile customer exactly what he was accustomed to do for his father and mother. And yet the habit of spreading out over the page the entire contents of the book was not without value: it gave the purchaser no excuse for not knowing what was to be found within its covers; and in the days when books were a luxury and literary reviews non-existent, the country trade was enabled to make a better choice.

The manner in which the "Little Pretty Pocket-Book" is written is so characteristic of those who were the first to attempt to write for the younger generation in an amusing way, that it is worth while to examine briefly the topics treated. An American reprint of a later date, now in the Lenox Collection, will serve to show the method chosen to combine instruction with amusement. The book itself is miniature in size, about two by four inches, with embossed gilt paper covers—Newbery's own specialty as a binding. The sixty-five little illustrations at the top of its pages were numerous enough to afford pleasure to any eighteenth century child, although they were crude in execution and especially lacked true perspective. The first chapter after the "Address to Parents" and to the other people mentioned on the title-page gives letters to Master Tommy and Miss Polly. First, Tommy is congratulated upon the good character that his Nurse has given him, and instructed as to the use of the "Pocket-Book," "which will teach you to play at all those innocent games that good Boys and Girls divert themselves with." The boy reader is next advised to mark his good and bad actions with pins upon a red and black ball. Little Polly is then given similar congratulations and instructions, except that in her case a pincushion is to be substituted for a ball. Then follow thirty pages devoted to "alphabetically digested" games, from "The great A Play" and "The Little a Play" to "The great and little Rs," when plays, or the author's imagination, give out and rhymes begin the alphabet anew. Modern picture alphabets have not improved much upon this jingle:

"Great A, B and C And tumble down D, The Cat's a blind buff, And she cannot see."

Next in order are four fables with morals (written in the guise of letters), for in Newbery's books and in those of a much later period, we feel, as Mr. Welsh writes, a "strong determination on the part of the authors to place the moral plainly in sight and to point steadily to it." Pictures also take a leading part in this effort to inculcate good behaviour; thus Good Children are portrayed in cuts, which accompany the directions for attaining perfection. Proverbs, having been hitherto introduced into school-books, appear again quite naturally in this source of diversion, which closes—at least in the American edition—with sixty-three "Rules for Behaviour." These rules include those suitable for various occasions, such as "At the Meeting-House," "Home," "The Table," "In Company," and "When abroad with other Children." To-day, when many such rules are as obsolete as the tiny pages themselves, this chapter affords many glimpses of the customs and etiquette of the old-fashioned child's life. Such a direction as "Be not hasty to run out of Meeting-House when Worship is ended, as if thou weary of being there" (probably an American adaptation of the English original), recalls the well-filled colonial meeting-house, where weary children sat for hours on high seats, with dangling legs, or screwed their small bodies in vain efforts to touch the floor. Again we can see the anxious mothers, when, after the long sermon was brought to a close, they put restraining hands upon the little ones, lest they, in haste to be gone, should forget this admonition. The formalism of the time is suggested in this request, "Make a Bow always when come Home, and be instantly uncovered," for the ceremony of polite manners in these bustling days has so much relaxed that the modern boy does all that is required if he remembers to be "instantly uncovered when come Home." Among the numerous other requirements only one more may be cited—a rule which reveals the table manners of polite society in its requisite for genteel conduct: "Throw not anything under the Table. Pick not thy teeth at the Table, unless holding thy Napkin before thy mouth with thine other Hand." With such an array of intellectual and moral contents, the little "Pocket-Book" may appear to-day to be almost anything except an amusement book. Yet this was the phase that the English play-book first assumed, and it must not be forgotten that English prose fiction was only then coming into existence, except such germs as are found in the character sketches in the "Spectator" and in the cleverly told incidents by Defoe.

In 1744, when Newbery published this duodecimo, Dr. Samuel Johnson was the presiding genius of English letters; four years earlier, fiction had come prominently into the foreground with the publication of "Pamela" by Samuel Richardson; and between seventeen hundred and forty and seventeen hundred and fifty-two, Richardson's "Clarissa Harlowe," Smollett's "Roderick Random" and "Peregrine Pickle," and Fielding's "Tom Jones" were published. This fact may seem irrelevant to the present subject; nevertheless, the idea of a veritable story-book, that is a book relating a tale, does not seem to have entered Newbery's mind until after these novels had met with a deserved and popular success.

The result of Newbery's first efforts to follow Locke's advice was so satisfactory that his wares were sought most eagerly. "Very soon," said his son, Francis Newbery, "he was in the full employment of his talents in writing and publishing books of amusement and instruction for Children. The call for them was immense, an edition of many thousands being sometimes exhausted during the Christmas holidays. His friend, Dr. Samuel Johnson, who, like other grave characters, could now and then be jocose, had used to say of him, 'Newbery is an extraordinary man, for I know not whether he has read or written most Books.'"[51-A]

The bookseller was no less clever in his use of other people's wits. No one knows how many of the tiny gilt bindings covered stories told by impecunious writers, to whom the proceeds in times of starvation were bread if not butter. Newbery, though called by Goldsmith "the philanthropic publisher of St. Paul's Churchyard," knew very well the worth to his own pocket of these authors' skill in story-writing. Between the years seventeen hundred and fifty-seven and seventeen hundred and sixty-seven, the English publisher was at the height of his prosperity; his name became a household word in England, and was hardly less well known to the little colonials of America.

Newbery's literary associations, too, were both numerous and important. Before Oliver Goldsmith began to write for children, he is thought to have contributed articles for Newbery's "Literary Magazine" about seventeen hundred and fifty-eight, while Johnson's celebrated "Idler" was first printed in a weekly journal started by the publisher about the same time. For the "British Magazine" Newbery engaged Smollett as editor. In this periodical appeared Goldsmith's "History of Miss Stanton." When later this was published as "The Vicar of Wakefield," it contained a characterization of the bookseller as a good-natured man with red, pimpled face, "who was no sooner alighted than he was in haste to be gone, for he was ever on business of the utmost importance, and he was at that time actually compiling materials for the history of Mr. Thomas Trip."[52-A] With such an acquaintance it is probable that Newbery often turned to Goldsmith, Giles Jones, and Tobias Smollett for assistance in writing or abridging the various children's tales; even the pompous Dr. Johnson is said to have had a hand in their production—since he expressed a wish to do so. Newbery himself, however, assumed the responsibility as well as the credit of so many little "Histories," that it is exceedingly difficult to fix upon the real authors of some of the best-known volumes in the publisher's juvenile library.

The histories of "Goody Two-Shoes" and "Tommy Trip" (once such nursery favorites, and now almost, if not quite, forgotten) have been attributed to various men; but according to Mr. Pearson in "Banbury Chap-Books," Goldsmith confessed to writing both. Certainly, his sly wit and quizzical vein of humor seem to pervade "Goody Two-Shoes"—often ascribed to Giles Jones—and the notes affixed to the rhymes of Mother Goose before she became Americanized. Again his skill is seen in the adaptation of "Wonders of Nature and Art" for juvenile admirers; and for "Fables in Verse" he is generally considered responsible. As all these tales were printed in the colonies or in the young Republic, their peculiarities and particularities may be better described when dealing with the issues of the American press.

John Newbery, the most illustrious of publishers in the eyes of the old-fashioned child, died in 1767, at the comparatively early age of fifty-four. Yet before his death he had proved his talent for producing at least fifty original little books, to be worth considerably more than the Biblical ten talents.

No sketch of Newbery's life should fail to mention another large factor in his successful experiment—the insertion in the "London Chronicle" and other newspapers of striking and novel advertisements of his gilt volumes, which were to be had for "six-pence the price of binding." An instance of his skill appeared in the "London Chronicle" for December 19, 1764-January 1, 1765:

"The Philosophers, Politicians, Necromancers, and the learned in every faculty are desired to observe that on the 1st of January, being New Year's Day (oh, that we may all lead new lives!) Mr. Newbery intends to publish the following important volumes, bound and gilt, and hereby invites all his little friends who are good to call for them at the Bible and Sun in St. Paul's Churchyard, but those who are naughty to have none."[54-A]

Christopher Smart, his brother-in-law, who was an adept in the art of puffing, possibly wrote many of the advertisements of new books—notices so cleverly phrased that they could not fail to attract the attention of many a country shop-keeper. In this way thousands were sold to the country districts; and book-dealers in the American commonwealths, reading the English papers and alert to improve their trade, imported them in considerable quantities.

After Newbery's death, his son, Francis, and Carnan, his stepson, carried on the business until seventeen hundred and eighty-eight; from that year until eighteen hundred and two Edward Newbery (a nephew of the senior Newbery), who in seventeen hundred and sixty-seven had set up a rival establishment, continued to publish new editions of the same little works. Yet the credit of this experiment of printing juvenile stories belongs entirely to the older publisher. Through them he made a strong protest against the reading by children of the lax chap-book literature, so excellently described by Mr. John Ashton in "Chap-Books of the Eighteenth Century;" and although his stories occasionally alluded to disagreeable subjects or situations, these were unfortunately familiar to his small patrons.

The gay little covers of gilt or parti-colored paper in which this English publisher dressed his books expressed an evident purpose to afford pleasure, which was increased by the many illustrations that adorned the pages and added interest to the contents.

To the modern child, these books give no pleasure; but to those who love the history of children of the past, they are interesting for two reasons. In them is portrayed something of the life of eighteenth century children; and by them the century's difference in point of view as to the constituents of a story-book can be gauged. Moreover, all Newbery's publications are to be credited with a careful preparation that later stories sadly lacked. They were always written with a certain art; if the language was pompous, we remember Dr. Johnson; if the style was formal, its composition was correct; if the tales lacked ease in telling, it was only the starched etiquette of the day reduced to a printed page; and if they preached, they at least were seldom vulgar.

The preaching, moreover, was of different character from that of former times. Hitherto, the fear of the Lord had wholly occupied the author's attention when he composed a book "proper for a child as soon as he can read;" now, material welfare was dwelt upon, and a good boy's reward came to him when he was chosen the Lord Mayor of London. Good girls were not forgotten, and were assured that, like Goody Two-Shoes, they should attain a state of prosperity wherein

"Their Fortune and their Fame would fix And gallop in their Coach and Six."

Goody Two-Shoes, with her particular method of instilling the alphabet, and such books as "King Pippin" (a prodigy of learning) may be considered as tiny commentaries upon the years when Johnson reigned supreme in the realm of learning. These and many others emphasized not the effects of piety,—Cotton Mather's forte,—but the benefits of learning; and hence the good boy was also one who at the age of five spelt "apple-pye" correctly and therefore eventually became a great man.

At the time of Newbery's death it was more than evident that his experiment had succeeded, and children's stories were a printed fact.


[45-A] Field, The Child and his Book, p. 223.

[51-A] Welsh, Bookseller of the Last Century, pp. 22, 23.

[52-A] Foster, Life of Goldsmith, vol. i, p. 244.

[54-A] Welsh, Bookseller of the Last Century, p. 109.



Kings should be good Not men of blood. The New England Primer, 1791

If Faith itself has different dresses worn What wonder modes in wit should take their turn. POPE: Essay on Man



Newbery's Books in America

In the middle of the eighteenth century Thursdays were red-letter days for the residents of the Quaker town of Philadelphia. On that day Thomas Bradford sent forth from the "Sign of the Bible" in Second Street the weekly number of the "Pennsylvania Journal," and upon the same day his rival journalists, Franklin and Hall, issued the "Pennsylvania Gazette."

On Thursday, the fifteenth of November, seventeen hundred and fifty, Old Style, the good people of the town took up their newspapers with doubtless a feeling of comfortable anticipation, as they drew their chairs to the fireside and began to look over the local occurrences of the past week, the "freshest foreign advices," and the various bits of information that had filtered slowly from the northern and more southern provinces.

On this particular evening the subscribers to both newspapers found a trifle more news in the "Journal," but in each paper the same domestic items of interest, somewhat differently worded. The latest news from Boston was that of November fifth, from New York, November eighth, the Annapolis item was dated October tenth, and the few lines from London had been written in August.

The "Gazette" (a larger sheet than the "Journal") occasionally had upon its first page some timely article of political or local interest. But more frequently there appeared in its first column an effusion of no local color, but full of sentimental or moral reflections. In this day's issue there was a long letter, dated New York, from one who claimed to be "Beauty's Votary." This expressed the writer's disappointment that an interesting "Piece" inserted in the "Gazette" a fortnight earlier had presented in its conclusion "an unexpected shocking Image." The shock to the writer it appears was the greater, because the beginning of the article had, he thought, promised a strong contrast between "Furious Rage in our rough Sex, and Gentle mildness adorn'd with Beauty's charms in the other." The rest of the letter was an apostrophe to the fair sex in the sentimental and florid language of the period.

To the women, we imagine, this letter was more acceptable than to the men, who found the shipping news more to their taste, and noted with pleasure the arrival of the ship Carolina and the Snow Strong, which brought cargoes valuable for their various industries.

Advertisements filled a number of columns. Among them was one so novel in its character that it must have caught the eye of all readers. The middle column on the second page was devoted almost entirely to an announcement that John Newbery had for "Sale to Schoolmasters, Shopkeepers, &c, who buy in quantities to sell again," "The Museum," "A new French Primer," "The Royal Battledore," and "The Pretty Book for Children." This notice—a reduced fac-simile of which is given—made Newbery's debut in Philadelphia; and it must not be forgotten that but a short period had elapsed since his first book had been printed in England.

Franklin had doubtless heard of the publisher in St. Paul's Churchyard through Mr. Strahan, his correspondent, who filled orders for him from London booksellers; but the omission of the customary announcement of special books as "to be had of the Printer hereof" points to Newbery's enterprise in seeking a wider market for his wares, and Franklin's business ability in securing the advertisement, as it is not repeated in the "Journal."

This "Museum" was probably a newer book than the "Royal Primer," "Battledore," and "Pretty Book," and consequently was more fully described; and oddly enough, all of these books are of earlier editions than Mr. Welsh, Newbery's biographer, was able to trace in England.

"The Museum" still clings to the same idea which pervaded "The Play-thing." Its second title reads: "A private TUTOR for little MASTERS and MISSES." The contents show that this purpose was carried out. It tutored them by giving directions for reading with eloquence and propriety; by presenting "the antient and present State of Great Britain with a compendious History of England;" by instructing them in "the Solar System, geography, Arts and Sciences" and the inevitable "Rules for Behaviour, Religion and Morality;" and it admonished them by giving the "Dying Words of Great Men when just quitting the Stage of Life." As a museum it included descriptions of the Seven Wonders of the World, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Churchyard, and the Tower of London, with an ethnological section in the geographical department! All of this amusement was to be had for the price of "One Shilling," neatly bound, with, thrown in as good measure, "Letters, Tales and Fables illustrated with Cuts." Such a library, complete in itself, was a fine and most welcome reward for scholarship, when prizes were awarded at the end of the school session.

Importations of "Parcels of entertaining books for children" had earlier in the year been announced through the columns of the "Gazette;" but these importations, though they show familiarity with Newbery's quaint phraseology in advertising, probably also included an assortment of such little chap-books as "Tom Thumb," "Cinderella" (from the French of Monsieur Perrault), and some few other old stories which the children had long since appropriated as their own property.

In 1751 we find New York waking up to the appreciation of children's books. There J. Waddell and James Parker were apparently the pioneers in bringing to public notice the fact that they had for sale little novel-books in addition to horn-books and primers; and moreover the "Weekly Post-Boy" advertised that these booksellers had "Pretty Books for little Masters and Misses" (clearly a Newbery imitation), "with Blank Flourished Christmas pieces for Scholars."

But as yet even Franklin had hardly been convinced that the old way of imparting knowledge was not superior to the then modern combination of amusement and instruction; therefore, although with his partner, David Hall, he without doubt sold such children's books as were available, for his daughter Sally, aged seven, he had other views. At his request his wife, in December, 1751, wrote the following letter to William Strahan:

MADAM,—I am ordered by my Master to write for him Books for Sally Franklin. I am in Hopes She will be abel to write for herself by the Spring.

8 Sets of the Perceptor best Edit. 8 Doz. of Croxall's Fables. 3 Doz. of Bishop Kenns Manual for Winchester School. 1 Doz. Familiar Forms, Latin and Eng. Ainsworth's Dictionaries, 4 best Edit. 2 Doz. Select Tales and Fables. 2 Doz. Costalio's Test. Cole's Dictionarys Latin and Eng. 6 a half doz. 3 Doz. of Clarke's Cordery. 1 Boyle's Pliny 2 vols. 8vo. 6 Sets of Nature displayed in 7 vols. 12mo. One good Quarto Bibel with Cudes bound in calfe. 1 Penrilla. 1 Art of making Common Salt. By Browning.

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