History of the Children’s Book from the Old Babylonian to 1989

Current faculty: Ivy Trent

Description: For many years passed over by academia, children’s books have been recognized increasingly as a valuable resource for social history. This course will address children’s books as a vehicle of culture from the dawn of literacy to the end of the German Democratic Republic. The many striking consistencies in what societies have taught their children over this period reflect not only issues of power and control, but the subversion of such parental and institutional agendas. We will also explore the complex interactions between the worlds of adult and children’s literature, the oral and the written, and of illustration and text.

The cataloging of children’s’ books presents special challenges resulting in part from the early development of this specialty outside the book trade proper. Efforts to provide adequate descriptions for some items in this class may be stymied by standards of book description and categorization designed for printed books. Examples of such difficulties will be presented using descriptions drawn from different institutions, bibliographies, and from the rare book trade, and the examination of books drawn from the Children’s Book Collection (CBC) The remarkable opportunities presented by electronic and digital catalogues will be discussed along with some caveats.

The course will comprise a lecture component presenting an overview of children’s book history, broadened by visiting lectures representing the views of various constituencies within the field: a curator and specialist in the field of early English children’s literature; an academic librarian who headed cataloging project for the CBC; and a collector of photographically illustrated children’s books. Field trips are planned to the Huntington Library in search of children’s literature before the invention of children’s books and to UCLA’s Special Collections to observe directly the various cataloging issues presented by this unique class of literature, using examples from the Children’s Book Collection.

Requirements: Familiarity with some form of rare book cataloging either for the book trade or in a library, museum, or other archival setting desirable.
Extremely useful to have once been a child.

Years taught: 2011

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