The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes

By Peter Opie; Iona Opie | Go to book overview
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Nursery rhyme books since 1951

WE followed The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes with The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book, 1955, in which we presented 800 rhymes and ditties, making it the largest nursery rhyme book and one of the biggest anthologies of traditional English verse. Deliberately we sometimes gave more than one version of a rhyme, and deliberately we sometimes gave versions different from the text rhymes appearing in ODNR. Having had the benefit of a further four years' collecting, we were able to include a number of rhymes or versions of rhymes which had not been in print before. This in turn was followed by The Puffin Book of Nursery Rhymes, 1963. Although 150 of the rhymes are those we considered essential for anyone setting forth in life, nearly as many again are either additional to those in the Oxford books, or in a distinctly different version.

There have been a number of notable nursery rhyme books since 1951. I thought it important to give some post-1951 references in the apparatus, perhaps less to record the appearances of rhymes than to show that the publishing of nursery rhyme books, many of them superbly illustrated, went on from strength to strength. The problem has been that the contents of many of them were taken from the Oxford books. The more civilized editors or artists applied for permission to use texts; others did not, but had clearly used the Oxford books rather than going to original sources. An honourable exception is Brian Alderson Cakes and Custard (Heinemann), 1974, in which every rhyme was selected from a primary source.


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The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes


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