kids books for the young and old alike…
Were you just thinking to yourself “gee I wish I could get a children’s book from 1900 for free“?
Well I have a surprise for you!
About Historical Kids Books…
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).
Grenby notes that “the reasons for this sudden rise of children’s literature” and its rapid expansion into a booming market by the early 1800s “have never been fully explained.” We are free to speculate about the social and pedagogical winds that pushed this historical change.
I’ll tell you this, some of the illustrations in those kids books seem disturbing to my modern eye… not in the “gore and sex and destruction” way… but in the “who thought this was a good idea who the heck drew that” way.
Where to get historical kids books for free…
You can find all kinds of historical children’s books for free here: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/baldwin/all/thumbs