The Historical Children's Literature Collection at Thomas Cooper Library is primarily a teaching collection. Much more than most collections in the Department of Rare Books, the Children's Literature Collection supports classroom teaching, giving both undergraduates and graduate students the opportunity for hands-on experience of primary source materials. The collection covers children's literature up through about World War I, charting the growth and transformation of books for children during the golden age of the genre in the nineteenth century.
Successful children's books are frequently read to pieces, and are just as frequently reprinted. This exhibit includes some pretty books, but not all are in pretty condition. A few of the items on display are first editions; some of the reprints even show the gold-stamping and bright pictorial cloth bindings popular in the late Victorian period, but the others--worn, tattered, dog-eared--are just as historic, reflecting in their condition the enjoyment they gave to their original owners. Now the collection is established, we try to be more selective as to condition in the material that is added, especially in the later nineteenth century.
The core of the collection is a large and miscellaneous collection of late nineteenth-century children's books, many of them reprints of well-known titles, that was built up for the College of Education. In the nineteen-seventies, when USC added degree programs in library science, the first Dean of that college, Dr. Wayne Yenawine, acquired for the library a complementary collection that had been assembled by the children's literature scholar Ruth Baldwin.
The earlier periods of the collection were greatly strengthened by items from the collection of Alfred Chapin Rogers of Camden, received through the Pyne family. Early twentieth-century coverage was complemented by a collection of L. Frank Baum's Oz books from the late James Black. Recently, the collection has also received additional Oz books and other illustrated items given by Dr. Rosemary Reisman. The exhibit has drawn as well on children's items from other literary collections, including the Robert Louis Stevenson collection, more fully exhibited in 1994, and the G. Ross Roy Collection, which ranges far beyond Robert Burns.
The Historical Children's Literature Collection has traditionally been among the most heavily used in the Department, and its users now include students from courses, not only in education and library science, but also in the liberal arts.
Associate University Librarian
for Special Collections