02 May 2004 - 8:39 p.m.
Considering how many people of my acquaintance write or sell books for children - considering what a huge business it is - it fascinates me, to read about the days before children's sections in libraries and bookstores became the norm. The first two commercial editors specializing in children's books (at Macmillan and Doubleday) were not established as such until 1919 (Louise Seaman) and 1922 (May Massee).
I'm thinking, once I emerge from my current swirl of deadlines, of developing a small project or three related to the history of children's books - possibly even a sermon. There are so many remarkable people and engaging stories. . .
One of the books I've been dipping into has been The Hewins Lectures: 1947-1962 (Boston: Horn Book, 1963), a series of papers on New England children's literature set up by the indefatigable and irrepressible Frederic Melcher. In the inaugural presentation, "From Rollo to Tom Sawyer," Alice M. Jordan outlined the types of books available to nineteenth-century children. According to Jordan, numerous "Sunday school libraries" helped provide a regular supply of additional books to children. To meet the demand, the American Sunday School Union encouraged the production of suitable stories; then as now, there was concern over whether the stories being published met the moral and religious standards the ASSU wished to sustain, particularly when secular publishers realized this was a market they ought to pursue:
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