Dr Moore says some researchers identify “A Little Pretty Pocket-Book”, published by John Newbery in 1744, as the first book created in English specifically for children
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Grace Moore, a lecturer in English and Theatre Studies, and a researcher in the Centre for the History of Emotions, is curator of a new exhibition at the University of Melbourne which draws on the Baillieu Library’s large collection of children’s literature.
Dr Moore says some researchers identify A little pretty pocket-book, published by John Newbery in 1744, as the first book created in English specifically for children.
“This lovely little volume sought to both entertain and instruct its young readers, following Locke’s educational model,” she says.
Dr Moore says the cheap paper, more efficient printing techniques and the affluent middle class that emerged with industrialism allowed the idea of childhood to develop.
“There was a growing recognition that an infant’s early years should be characterised by learning through play,” she says, “while books such as Rousseau’s Émile (1762) emphasised the key role of play in helping children to think independently and to understand the world around them.
“As a result, privileged children were encouraged to relish their early years, to draw upon their imaginations, and enter a world of fantasy.”