(Roughly) Daily

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest”*…

Adventures of a Dog, and a Good Dog Too, 1857

The “children’s book” effectively dates from the mid-18th century (before which children’s reading was generally confined to literature intended for their education and moral edification rather than for their amusement). Since then, there’s been an extraordinary– and illuminating– flowering…

We can learn much about how a historical period viewed the abilities of its children by studying its children’s literature. Occupying a space somewhere between the purely didactic and the nonsensical, most children’s books published in the past few hundred years have attempted to find a line between the two poles, seeking a balance between entertainment and instruction. However, that line seems to move closer to one pole or another depending on the prevailing cultural sentiments of the time. And the very fact that children’s books were hardly published at all before the early 18th century tells us a lot about when and how modern ideas of childhood as a separate category of existence began.

“By the end of the 18th century,” writes Newcastle University professor M.O. Grenby, “children’s literature was a flourishing, separate and secure part of the publishing industry in Britain.” The trend accelerated rapidly and has never ceased—children’s and young adult books now drive sales in publishing (with 80% of YA books bought by grown-ups for themselves)…

More– and a chance to do your own exploration– at “Enter an Archive of 6,000 Historical Children’s Books, All Digitized and Free to Read Online,” from @openculture. Go directly to the 6,000+ titles in the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature here.

And as a bonus, visit the 1,800+ titles in UCLA Children’s Book Collection at the Internet Archive.

* C. S. Lewis

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As we turn the page, we might turn back to “adult” literature and recall that today– and every June 16– is Bloomsday, a commemoration and celebration of the life of Irish writer James Joyce, during which the events of his novel Ulysses (a modern classic set on this date in 1904) are relived: Leopold Bloom goes about Dublin, James Joyce’s immortalization of his first outing with Nora Barnacle, the woman who would eventually become his wife.

The first Bloomsday was observed on the 50th anniversary of the events in the novel, in 1954, when John Ryan (artist, critic, publican and founder of Envoy magazine) and the novelist Brian O’Nolan organized what was to be a daylong pilgrimage along the Ulysses route. They were joined by Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, Tom Joyce (a dentist who, as Joyce’s cousin, represented the family interest), and AJ Leventhal (a lecturer in French at Trinity College, Dublin).

 The crew for the first Bloomsday excursion

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 16, 2022 at 1:00 am

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