The History of Children's Books

"There have been children's stories and folk-tales ever since man first learned to speak. Children's books, however, are a late growth of literature"

At almost the same time was published "A New Enterlude for Chyldren to playe, named Jacke Jugeler, both wytte, and very playsent. Newly Imprented, 1562-3." The players are

Mayster Boungrace, a galant,
Dame Coye, a gentelwoman,
Jacke Jugler, the vyce,
Jenkin Careaway, a lackey,
Ales Trype and go, a mayd.

It is founded on the Menaechmi of Plautus, the source of a part of the Comedy of Errors; and the Vice, as Richard Grant White says, "wore generally, if not always, the costume of the domestic fool or jester of the period, which is now worn by the clown of the circus," performing "the mingled functions of scamp, braggart, and practical joker." In this children's play, the lackey is sent on an errand, but loiters by the way, and Jacke Jugler, dressing himself like him, plays the part of his double.

Books of good manners still held their place. In 1560, Thomas Paynall translated from the French, and published with a catechism for children two or three years old to learn, "The Civilitie of Childhode, with the discipline and institution of Children ;" and a dozen years later came a curious little book, from the same tongue, by a very young translator. It is "Youth's Behaviour, or, Decency in Conversation amongst Men, composed in French by Grave Persons, for the use and benefit of their Youth, now newly turned into English, by Francis Hawkins, nephew to Sir Thomas Hawkins. The tenth impression. London, 1672." The translation was first made in 1643, when Master Francis Hawkins, whose portrait is the frontispiece, was eight years old. The child was not distinguished in after-life; indeed, he is known only as the author of a discourse, with a report of the confession of one Fitz-Harris, in 1681. The translation was probably made as an exercise in rendering French into English, and no doubt was revised by an older friend. However, some of the maxims are as useful in the nineteenth century as they were in the seventeenth. "It is ill-beseeming to put one in mind of any unclean or ill-favoured thing." "Rub not thy teeth nor crash them, nor make anything crack in such manner that thou disquiet anybody. In yawning, howl not." "Hearing thy Master, or likewise the Preacher, wriggle not thyself, as seeming unable to contain thyself within thy skin." "If any one had begun to rehearse a History, say not I know it well; and if he relate it not right and fully, shake not thine head, twinkle not thine eyes, and snigger not thereat; much less maist thou say, 'It is not so; you deceive yourself.'"

The following is a little doubtful in meaning; and suggests mediaeval rather than modern manners: "If there be any meat on the fire, thou oughtest not to set thy feet thereon, to heat it."

The second part of Youth's Behaviour is added "by the same hand that translated the last volume of Caussin' s Holy Court," probably an uncle of Francis Hawkins. It is a manual of behavior for girls, in which the books recommended for their reading are thus summed up: "To entertain young Gentlewomen in their hours of Recreation, we shall further commend unto them, Gods Revenge against Murther; and, the Arcadia of Sir Philip Sydney; Artemidorus his Interpretation of Dreams. And for the business of their Devotion, there is an excellent book entitled Taylor's Holy Living and Dying; The Duty of Man, in which the Duty to God and man are both comprehended." (There may be much worse reading nowadays for a young girl than the Arcadia and the Holy Living and Dying.)

Children had all this time been learning their letters, not exactly from books, but from "hornbooks" and "battledores," the invention of some thrifty and saving person in the days when books were dear. A hornbook of 1570, and another on whose back is a portrait of Charles I. in armor, have only a single leaf, with the alphabet, large and small, the Lord's prayer, and monosyllables. At the top of the older one is a large cross, & #8212; the "Christ-cross," from which the alphabet is often called the crisscross row, & #8212; and below are the Roman numerals. There is a piece of transparent horn in front, to keep the paper from wet fingers, and the whole is set in a wooden frame with a handle. This handle has sometimes a hole for a string, to sling the book to the scholar's girdle. It is thought that leaden plates were sometimes used for the same purpose, as moulds for them still exist. The battledore, or first book for children, a later substitute for the hornbook, was printed on a card, and contained the alphabet and simple combinations of letters.

John Locke, in his Thoughts on Education (1691), suggests that when a child begins to read, some easy, pleasant book, like AEsop's Fables or Reynard the Fox, with pictures if possible, should be put into his hands. He adds, "What other books there are in English of the kind above-mentioned, fit to engage the liking of children, and tempt them to read, I do not know, but am apt to think, that children, being generally delivered over to the method of schools, where the fear of the rod is to inforce, and not any pleasure of the employment to invite them to learn, this sort of useful books, amongst the number of silly ones that are of all sorts, yet have had the fate to be neglected; and nothing that I know has been considered of this kind out of the ordinary road of the hornbook, primer, Psalter, Testament, and Bible."

They were for a long time the only school reading-books used in New England as in Old England; and it has been said that the reason why so few old Bibles remain in this country is that they were thumbed, torn, and at last destroyed as school-books. Another theory, however, is that they cost so much that the early settlers could not afford to buy them. The subject of the New England primer has been ably treated by Dr. J. Hammond Trumbull, who says that in 1691 Benjamin Harris, printer and bookseller in Boston, advertised, "A second impression of the New England Primer, enlarged, to which is added more Directions for Spelling; The Prayer of King Edward the 6th and Verses made by Mr. Rogers the Martyr, left as a Legacy to his Children." No copy is known to be extant. The verses made by Mr. John Rogers had been printed in Boston, in 1685, by Samuel Green, in a primer called The Protestant Teacher for Children, of which there is a mutilated copy in the library of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. This primer was printed both in Boston and Philadelphia before 1688. Benjamin Eliot, Boston, 1708, advertised "The First Book for Children; or, The Compleat School-Mistress, etc." In 1715, Timothy Green had "lately published at New London A Primer for the Colony of Connecticut; or, an introduction to the true Reading of English. To which is added, Milk for Babes" (Rev. John Cotton's Catechism for Children). The oldest complete New England primer in existence was printed in Boston, in 1737, by Thomas Fleet, the son-in-law of the Mrs. Goose whom common report calls the singer of the nursery songs collected and published by him under her name. The evidence in favor of her and of the French Mère l'Oie, a survival of Bertha Broadfoot, may be easily found and weighed; students of New England antiquities being in favor of one side, those of folk-lore of the other. Isaac Watts, in 1720, in the ninth year of his famous visit to Sir Thomas Abney, which was to be for a week, and lasted thirty-six years, published the Divine and Moral Songs for Children, which he had written for the daughters of his friend. He wrote, too, an Art of Reading and Writing English, and published in 1726 "The Knowledge of the Heavens and Earth made easy; or, the first principles of Geography and Astronomy Explained." His Catechisms for Children and Youth, and Short View of the Whole Scripture History in Questions and Answers, appeared in 1730. He said, "I well know that some of my friends imagine my time is employed in too mean a service while I write for babes; but I content myself with this thought, that nothing is too mean for a servant of Christ to engage in if he can thereby most effectually promote the kingdom of his blessed Maker.... It is not for me to say how many hours and days and weeks have been spent in revising and examining every word and expression, that, if possible, nothing might be inserted which might give just occasion of offence to pious persons and families; that nothing might be left out which was necessary for children to know in that tender age; and that no word, phrase, or sentiment, if possible, might be admitted which could not be brought in child's understanding."

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