Engines of Instruction, Mischief, and Magic: Children's Literature in England from Its Beginnings to 1839

Synopsis

When John Newbery published A Little Pretty Pocket-Book in London in 1744 he was onto something new: the writing and marketing of books devoted wholly to children. Although it was the Age of Reason and Newbery and his contemporaries believed that even the poorest young-ster could "look to his book" to achieve worldly success, there was an element of fun in the juvenile productions that soon flowed from the presses. The adventures of Dick Whittington, Giles Gingerbread, and Little Goody Two-Shoes delighted as they instructed. To read Engines of Instruction, Mischief, and Magic: Children's Literature in England from Its Beginnings to 1839 is to trace the origins of a cherished part of our cultural history.

Mary V. Jackson's entertaining, lavishly illustrated book sets a new standard for the study of children's literature in England. Going beyond previous scholarship, she shows how social, political, religious, and aesthetic considerations shaped the form and content of children's books. These books have always been sensitive barometers of shifts in taste and belief, a means of inculcating in the young the prevailing values of the adult world. They brought about a revolution in publishing, as revealed in Jackson's discussion of marketing strategies and innovations. And they were indebted to adult literature and art: classics like Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels were eventually categorized as children's books, and Romantic poets and illustrators like William Blake pointed the way from Puritan piety to fantasy and freedom. This fascinating history is rich in implications for children's literature of today.

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Lincoln, NE
Publication year:
  • 1989