The Looking Glass : New Perspectives on Children's Literature, Vol 3, No 1 (1999)

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The Caucus Race
Martha Scott, editor


"Children's Literature Special Collections and Online Exhibits"

by The Dodo (a.k.a. Martha Scott)


Dear Reader,

The Dodo welcomes you to the Caucus Race. The subject of today's virtual tour is an exploration of the world of children's literature special collections and online exhibits. Our tour is lengthy and wide-ranging (we'll visit three continents), so take a deep breath and let's begin.

As the Dodo, in her real-life incarnation as children's librarian, is privileged to work in the same building as the Toronto Public Library's Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books, we'll start here. Read about the history of the Osborne Collection, collection highlights, current and upcoming displays and events. Follow the links to Osborne Collection staff member Yuka Kajihara's informative Lucy Maud Montgomery in Ontario web page and the irresistible Peter Rabbit website "The Official and Definitive Site About the World of Peter Rabbit". Hop back to the Osborne Collection page and under "Related Sites" follow the link to the spectacular site of the De Grummond Children's Literature Collection. This collection, located at the University of Southern Mississippi, contains 55,000 children's books dating from 1530 plus manuscripts and illustrations representing 1,200 children's authors and illustrators. There are online finding aids for over 100 of these manuscript collections. The De Grummond Collection has significant holdings of Ezra Jack Keats, Kate Greenaway, Randolph Caldecott and H.A. and Margaret Rey . Dodo's challenge: how many Peter books did Ezra Jack Keats create? Find out on the Ezra Jack Keats multimedia tour . You'll also see the Life magazine photo which was Keats' original inspiration for Peter.

In a previous Caucus Race column I discussed the De Grummond's Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood Projects. These sites allow the reader to read versions of a story "vertically", i.e. one version at a time or "horizontally", i.e. cross-textually or episode by episode across the different versions. A similar site is the Jack in the Beanstalk or Jack the Giant Killer Project containing nine different versions of the Jack story. The Dodo is partial to an 1848 version in which Jack climbs the beanstalk to learn how a book is made. He visits a paper mill, a type foundry, a printing press, a bookseller's and finally a school where he learns to read. Says Jack, climbing: "Up I go, to learn and to look. And to try to find out how they make a book." You can even print out a copy of an uncut 16 page penny book, fold and cut it to make your own "History of Jack the Giant-Killer" chapbook. Prepare to be shocked when giants and giant-like creatures meet a grisly end as Jack wields his trusty blade and cuts off their heads! There's also an 1860 Jack and the Beanstalk board game to print and play. You'll find more fun and games at The Thomas Parry Library, University of Wales Aberystwyth Games, Puzzles and Frolic: Comics and Games from the Horton Collection.

The Lilly Library, a rare book and manuscript collection at the Indiana University, boasts an impressive and attractively designed website. (The small arrow in the top right corner will take you to page 2; it's easy to miss.) The Dodo enjoyed browsing the Lilly Library's Chapbook Index in which over 1,900 chapbooks are indexed and searchable online. Perhaps the most sensational of the twenty subject categories is "Odd Characters and Strange Events", with titles such as "Account of a Most Surprising and Savage Girl", "Life of the Princess of Zel", "Visits from the World of Spirits" and "Anecdotes of Little Dogs." Curious indeed! The Elizabeth Nesbitt Room Chapbook Collection provides an online finding aid for its collection of 250 chapbooks which includes digital images of the chapbook covers. (The Elizabeth Nesbitt Room in the Information Sciences Library at the University of Pittsburgh houses over 12,000 books and magazine titles dating from the 1600s). For more on chapbooks, see Biblio Magazine's archived article, A Chapter on Chapbooks.

Next we arrive at a fascinating site called Tiny Tomes. This is an online exhibit of miniature books at the University of Iowa Libraries. The accompanying descriptive catalogue is divided into categories which include Abecedaria, Children's Books and Dodo's favourite, Teeny, Tiny Tomes. Just how small is teeny, tiny? The smallest letterpress printed book in the world, a version of Three Blind Mice, measures 2.1 mm x 2.1 mm.

Do you know your ABCs? How about your ZYXs? From A to Z: An Exhibition of ABC Books Selected from the John O.C. McCrillis Collection at the Watkinson Library, Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut includes 70 books selected from a collection of over 350 dating from 1808 to 1986. Titles appear in chronological order. ZYX: An Exhibition of Selected ABC Books from the Jean Trebbi Collection hosted by the Bienes Center for the Literary Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, groups its 66 titles into Children's Alphabet Books ; Adult Alphabet Books; The Alphabet; and Pop-up and Movable Alphabet Books Pop-ups. Pop-ups, also known as movable books, mechanical books, harlequinades, peep shows and dissolving books (there's something so "Cheshire Cat-like" about a "dissolving book") have a presence on the Internet. Visit The Pop-up World of Ann Montaro created by the Rutgers University Libraries; Moving Tales: Paper Engineering and Children's Pop-up Books from the State Library of Victoria (Australia) ; and The Great Menagerie: The Wonderful World of Pop-up and Movable books, 1811-1996 from the University of North Texas -- all "goodly" sites.

Jump to Texas for a look at the website of an exciting American organization founded in 1996. The National Centre for Children's Illustrated Literature organizes, exhibits and tours shows of original art from children's picture books. They also create educational programs around illustrators whose work they exhibit. Featured illustrators are Diane Stanley, David Diaz, William Joyce, Paul Zelinsky and Janet Stevens.

There's more, dear reader! Further intriguing and informative on-line exhibits are the University of Delaware Special Collection's Department's World of the Child: Two Hundred Years of Children's Books and Picturing Childhood: Illustrated Books from the University of California Collections, 1550-1990. Don't miss the National Library of Canada's delightful The Art of Illustration: A Celebration of Contemporary Canadian Children's Book Illustrators and The Coming of Age of Children's Literature in Canada, a chronology covering the years 1932-1997. For another look at the history of Canadian children's books, see the online catalogue Canadian Children's Books 1799-1939 in the Special Collections and University Archives Division of the University of British Columbia Library compiled by Sheila A. Egoff. The University of Laval in Quebec maintains a web-searchable online catalogue of its collection of French school texts, 1765-1965. Manuels scolaires québécois is searchable by keyword. You can also look up illustrations by subject. Take the homepage to the next page (use the arrow facing right), choose "Illustrations Numérisées", then "thème" (option 2) and you'll find the list of subject headings. The Dodo enjoyed the illustrations of turkeys ("dinde" in French). A rather beguiling bird!

I fear I have tired you out with this seemingly endless array of astounding websites. One last site will serve as a point of departure for even more online adventures relating to special collections and historical children's books. Gather your energies for the website of the indefatigable Kay Vandergrift. Kay Vandergrift's History of Children's Literature page with its multitude of links to Children's Literature Special Collections, Antiquarian Book Dealers (great fun whether you're in the market or just window shopping) and Early Illustrators of Children's Books from the 19th and 20th Centuries will provide many more hours of edification and enjoyment.

Your affectionate friend,

The Dodo



Martha Scott has been called many things including "Dodo". She lives in Toronto and works as Children's Resource Collection Specialist at the Toronto Public Library's Lillian H. Smith Branch.

 


Volume 3, Issue 2, The Looking Glass, 1999

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"The Caucus Race" ©Martha Scott, 1999.
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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680