Old Books for Young Children

Current faculty: Ruth B. Bottigheimer

Description: Early books for children pose many questions. For whom were they written? Were they “popular,” that is, did they sell well? What did their readers think of them? At first glance answers to questions like these seem to be straightforward.  One imprint after another would seem to mean brisk sales. But the minute you begin to examine seventeenth- and eighteenth-century books, you encounter a host of new questions. For instance, what exactly does it mean when an apparently new edition of a book appears with a different date on a new title page? It might mean the original printrun sold out (good news for its publisher), or it might mean just the opposite! This is only one of the questions we’ll encounter in working with early books for children. We’ll also look for smudged pages, defacements, and marginalia, all of which will narrow the great gap separating us in the twenty-first century from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century child readers. Prospective seminar participants might consider reading Mathew Grenby’s The Child Reader 1700-1840 (Cambridge University Press, 2011) in preparation for the seminar.

Students enrolled in this course will register as readers in the UCLA Department of Special Collections in order to pursue research in the department’s internationally known, extensive Children’s Book Collection.

Requirements: In their personal statement, applicants should describe the purposes to which they plan to put the knowledge gained from this class.

Years taught: 2012