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Making amusement the vehicle of instruction: Key Developments in the Nursery Reading Market 1783-1900

Delaney, LJ; (2012) Making amusement the vehicle of instruction: Key Developments in the Nursery Reading Market 1783-1900. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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During the course of the nineteenth century children’s early reading experience was radically transformed; late eighteenth-century children were expected to cut their teeth on morally improving texts, while Victorian children learned to read more playfully through colourful picturebooks. This thesis explores the reasons for this paradigm change through a study of the key developments in children’s publishing from 1783 to 1900. Successively examining an amateur author, a commercial publisher, an innovative editor, and a brilliant illustrator with a strong interest in progressive theories of education, the thesis is alive to the multiplicity of influences on children’s reading over the century. Chapter One outlines the scope of the study. Chapter Two focuses on Ellenor Fenn’s graded dialogues, Cobwebs to catch flies (1783), initially marketed as part of a reading scheme, which remained in print for more than 120 years. Fenn’s highly original method of teaching reading through real stories, with its emphasis on simple words, large type, and high-quality pictures, laid the foundations for modern nursery books. Chapter Three examines John Harris, who issued a ground-breaking series of colour-illustrated rhyming stories and educational books in the 1810s, marketed as ‘Harris’s Cabinet of Amusement and Instruction’. Chapter Four demonstrates the effect in the 1840s of ‘Felix Summerly’s Home Treasury of books and toys’, through which Henry Cole set new standards for the design and illustration of children’s books and established fairy tales and nursery rhymes as essential early reading. Chapter Five discusses the radical improvement in mass-market children’s books from the mid-1860s, achieved through Walter Crane’s experimental designs for cheap colour toy-books and quality baby-books, which popularised picturebook reading and took it into the classroom. Chapter Six offers a detailed study of the publishing history of Cobwebs to show how interest in this moral reader was sustained throughout the nineteenth century.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Making amusement the vehicle of instruction: Key Developments in the Nursery Reading Market 1783-1900
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1370657
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