Monday, March 14, 2011

Clive Hurst on Children's Books in the Bod

On February 28th Clive Hurst, Head of Rare Books and Printed Ephemera at the Bodleian Library, presented a personal selection of early children's books from collections at the Bod. Clive matched each image of a Bodleian treasure with a witty excursus on its significance: the squirm-inducing descriptions of the 'brands of Hell' in Janeway's Token for Children: Being an Exact Account of the Conversion, Holy and Exemplary Lives, and Joyful Deaths of Several Young Children, for example, were popular enough to warrant a 'further account', while even the subscription lists for the Gigantick Histories contained jokes (apparently the Vatican Library was a faithful subscriber). Tracing representations of learning and play in illustration and word throughout his talk, one of Clive's most fascinating examples confirmed the connections between Oxford and the children's book. The earliest known printed horn-book (circa 1620) was found in the foundations of Brasenose in 1882 during excavation works there. Of course, this volume did not have far to move once it resurfaced: it was deposited just across Radcliffe Square in the Bodleian, where it remains to this day.

At left, an illustration from Punctuation Personified, or, Pointing Made Easy, published by J. Harris. The Bodleian holds an 1824 copy from which Clive showed us images.

A facsimile version is available from the Bodleian bookshop.

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