Instructional Literature for Children

Religious Instruction

Ruth S. Murray, compiler.  Catechism for the Use of Young Friends.  Printed by Permission of The Representative Meeting of New England Yearly Meeting of The Society of Friends.  New York:  Friends’ Book and Tract Committee, 1888. Cover.

Robert Nelson.  Instructions for Them That Come to be Confirmed; By Way of Question and Answer. With Prayers for Them to Use Before and After Their Confirmation.  London:  Printed for J. G. & F. Rivington, 1834.  Forty-eighth edition. Title-page.

These two catechisms, summarizing the principles of the Christian religion in the form of questions and answers, as maintained by the Church of England and the Society of Friends [Quakers], are part of the ABL’s 19th Century Theological Pamphlets Collection.

The Scripture Alphabet for Children.  London:  Printed for the Religious Tract Society, [1830?]. Cover.

This miniature booklet is part of the ABL’s 19th Century Tract Collection.  Founded in London in 1799 by evangelicals from several denominations, the Religious Tract Society became a prominent British publisher of Christian literature, with a focus on women, children, and the poor.

Click on the image above to view the entire The Scripture Alphabet book.


[Favell Lee Mortimer].  Line Upon Line; or, A Second Series of the Earliest Religious Instruction the Infant Mind is Capable of Receiving. With Verses Illustrative of the Subjects.  Part II [of a two volume work].  London:  T. Hatchard, 1853. Frontispiece and title-page.

Displayed is the second of two volumes from the library of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  It is inscribed to their son in EBB’s hand, “To our Penini from Papa & Mama – Casa Guidi – March 9 – 1855.”  Favell Mortimer (1802–1878) was an English evangelical author of educational books for children.  In her preface she explains:  The design of this little work is to lead children to understand and to delight in the Scriptures.  Apparently Elizabeth Barrett Browning did not completely agree with Mortimer’s religious teachings, as she carefully altered the text in numerous places in both volumes.

Click the image above to view additional scans from Line Upon Line.

[Mary Martha Sherwood].  Sunday Entertainment: A Collection of Little Pieces Calculated to Teach Important Truths to the Reader.  By Mrs. Sherwood.  London:  Houlston and Wright, [186-?].  New edition. Frontispiece and title-page.

The Rainbow
, London:  Houlston and Wright, [186-?] 

The Little Woodman and His Dog Caesar, London:  William Macintosh, [1870?].

Considered by modern critics to be a particularly significant and influential author of nineteenth-century literature for children, British writer Mary Martha Sherwood (1775–1851) produced over 400 different titles—tracts such as those displayed here, as well as books, magazine articles, chapbooks, and more.  Her early works had evangelical themes, while her later publications were more generally Victorian, particularly promoting the ideas of domesticity and the family.  The ABL’s 19th Century Tract Collection includes 24 tracts written by Mrs. Sherwood.

Click the image above to view additional scans from Sunday Entertainment, The Rainbow, and The Little Woodman and His Dog Caesar.

Educational Books

Maria Edgeworth.  The Parent’s Assistant: or, Stories for Children.Complete in three volumes.  Ornamented with plates.  London:  Longman & Co., [and 12 other publishers], 1845.  A new edition.  Frontispiece, illustrated title-page and title-page from volume one displayed.

In the early nineteenth century, writer Maria Edgeworth (1768–1849) was a celebrated English novelist.  She also had progressive ideas regarding education and was one of the first writers of realist children’s literature.  The Parent’s Assistant, stories exhibiting moral precepts, was originally published in 1796.  It was read by Queen Victoria and mentioned by William Thackeray in his novel Vanity Fair.  In 1854 Robert Browning, then the father of a five-year-old son, wrote to his London publisher, requesting that Miss Edgeworth’s “Stories for Children” be sent to him in Italy.

Edgeworth was against tales of giants and fairies, asking in her preface, why should the mind be filled with fantastic visions, instead of useful knowledge?  Instead, she notes that, although she found it necessary to make her stories in some measure dramatic, in order to prevent tiring the ear and the mind, . . . care has been taken to avoid inflaming the imagination, or exciting a restless spirit of adventure by exhibiting false views of life, and creating hopes which, in the ordinary course of things, cannot be realised [sic].

Harriet Willoughby.  The History of France, in Rhyme, from the Accession of King Pharamond, A.D. 420, to the Revolution of 1830, in a Series of Easy and Progressive Lessons, for the Instruction of Youth, Addressed to the Children of the Right Hon. Lord Lilford.  London:  George Bell; Joseph Cundall, 1846.  First edition. Title-page.

In her preface, Harriet Willoughby (dates unknown) states, Perhaps no history is more replete with interesting and striking events, or can afford more useful and instructive moral to readers of all ages, THAN THAT OF FRANCE, especially from the accession of the House of Bourbon; the vicissitudes of their once powerful race proving the instability of all human greatness.  She notes further, I trust my easy Rhymes may not only amuse the rising generation, but impress many a useful lesson deeply upon the memory . . . .

Click the image above to view additional scans from The History of France, in Rhyme.

Charles Dickens.  A Child’s History of England.  London:  Bradbury & Evans, 1852.  Three volumes.  First edition.  Cover, frontispiece and title-page of volume one displayed.

English novelist and social critic Charles Dickens (1812–1870) dedicated this work, To my own dear children, [w]hom I hope it may help, bye-and-bye, to read with interest larger and better books on the same subject.  The three volumes cover English history from the reign of Alfred the Great, starting in 871, to the beginning of the reign of Victoria in 1837.  The displayed frontispiece in volume one is by watercolorist and engraver Francis William Topham (1808–1877), who created similar frontispieces for each volume.

Mary Howitt.  Sketches of Natural History; or, Songs of Animal Life.  Illustrated with Upwards of One Hundred Drawings by H. Giacomelli.  London:  T. Nelson and Sons, 1873. Title-page.

This is one of many editions of a book first published in 1834 by English poet Mary Howitt (1799–1888).  The poems, dealing with the “habits” and “manners” of animals, also give glimpses of rural life in England in the first half of the nineteenth century.  This edition is enhanced by the numerous drawings of French watercolorist, engraver, and illustrator Hector Giacomelli (1822–1904) which, according to the publisher’s note, will assist in educating the artistic taste of the juvenile reader.

Click the image above to view additional scans from Sketches of Natural History.

Kate Greenaway.  Almanack for 1883.  London and New York:  George Routledge and Sons [1883].  First edition. Frontispiece and title-page.

Kate Greenaway.  Kate Greenaway’s Alphabet.  London and New York:  George Routledge & Sons, [1885?].  First edition. Frontispiece and title-page.

English illustrator Kate Greenaway’s charming illustrations of children in Regency dress adorn these miniature books.  The 1883 Almanack was the first of a series, with illustrations for each month and each season, as well as the New Year.  The Alphabet includes 28 color illustrations, 26 of them illustrating letters.

Click the image above to view the entire book Alamanck for 1883 by Kate Greenaway.

Click the iamge above to view the entire book Kate Greenaway's Alphabet.

Instructional Literature for Children