The Golden Age of Childhood

Join us on an exploration of classic children’s books from our collection and the evocative illustrations that accompanied them.

Many books that we now regard as children’s classics, such as Aesop’s Fables and the stories of Grimm and Anderson, were originally written for adults. They were simply tales intended to inform and instruct.

In 1860, The Water-Babies: A Fairy Tale For a Land Baby, was written by the Reverend Charles Kingsley. This much-loved story was meant for the edification of children, but was underpinned by Kingsley’s moral vision for the adult world.

The Water-Babies, illustrated by Harry G. Theaker

The shift to a modern genre of children’s literature occurred in the mid-19th-century, with the ground-breaking Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (the pen-name of Lewis Carroll). The stories of Alice’s adventures in a fantasy world heralded a new era, where suddenly stories were written to stimulate the imagination of children. They were books written for fun rather than education.

The Little Mermaid, illustrated by Mabel Lucie Attwell

Illustrators, such as Arthur Rackham, Kate Greenaway, Mabel Lucie Attwell and Ernest H. Shepard (illustrator of the Pooh/Christopher Robin books), and John Tenniel (best known as the illustrator of the Alice books), brought their talents to what became known as ‘The Golden Age of Children’s Literature’. The result was beautifully-illustrated books which were to be loved in childhood and treasured into adulthood.

Kate Greenaway

The Little Match Girl and Other Stories. Hans Christian Anderson (1875)
Henry Collection 823 AND  

The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde. Walter Crane (1880)
Henry Collection 823 DEM 

Kate Greenaway’s Book of Games. Kate Greenaway (1889)
SR 790 GRE

The April Baby’s Book of Tunes. Kate Greenaway (1900)
SR 398.3 AR 62  

Mon Premier Alphabet. H. S. Bres (1900)
Henry Collection 443 BRE  

The Water-Babies: Fairy Tales for a Land-Baby. Charles Kingsley; illustrated by Alice Woodward (1908)
Henry Collection 823 KIN   

Aesop’s Fables. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1912)
SR 398.2 AES 

Aesop’s Fables, illustrated by Arthur Rackham

Hans Christian’s Fairy Tales. Illustrated by Mabel Lucie Attwell (1920)
Henry Collection 823 AND  

Playtime & Company (A Book for Children). E.H.Shepard, with verses by E.V. Lucas (1925)
Henry Collection 821 WAR           

The Water-Babies. Charles Kingsley; illustrated by Harry G Theaker (1936)
Henry Collection 823 KIN    

Please contact the Local & Family History department to view any of the titles listed here.

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.