Children’s Books

The Children’s Books Collection contains about 10,000 books and was formed with the aim of preserving children’s books for study and research.

History of the collection
The Children’s Book Collection has four main strands. The oldest historically is the group originally part of the Manchester School of Art Library of Art and Design. This became part of Manchester Polytechnic in 1970, and subsequently Manchester Metropolitan University in 1992. These books were collected for their graphic design, illustration, typography and bindings and are now part of the Book Design collection.

The second strand is made up of books originally held in the library of Didsbury College of Education where the study of children’s literature formed part of its teacher education courses. They include historic books on education in its widest sense, and rare nineteenth century children’s books by authors such as Francis Hodgson Burnett, Juliana Horatia Ewing, Rudyard Kipling, Edith Nesbit, Jules Verne and Mary Louisa Molesworth. These books became part of the library at Manchester Polytechnic when the two institutions merged in 1977.

The third and smallest group of books came from the Elizabeth Gaskell College of Education. In 1977 this college, along with two others became the City of Manchester College of Higher Education and subsequently merged with Manchester Polytechnic in 1983.

The fourth, and largest, group of books were acquired during the first ten years of Manchester Polytechnic Library, i.e.from 1970, in response to the interests of students of librarianship, graphic design and teacher training. This collection is particularly strong in nineteenth and early twentieth century children’s stories.

Scope and Content
The collection reflects contemporary social attitudes to children, and contains fine examples of book illustration, design and original bindings. The chronological strength of the collection is the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A thousand picture books from the 1970s and 1980s were added to the collection at the end of the 1990s.

The Children’s Collection also includes comics and magazines such as Eagle AnnualBlackie’s Girls’ Annual, Chatterbox, Boys’ Own Annual and Girls’ Own Annual. Edwardian boys’ adventure stories by G.A. Henty, Captain F.S. Brereton, Manvell Fenn, Herbert Strang and Percy Westerman are complemented by stories for girls by Angela Brazil and L.T. Meade. Favourite classics and fairy stories are featured.

The work of people associated with Manchester School of Art includes Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, Leslie Wood, Tony Ross and Lauren Child.Prize winning books such as the Caldecott, Carnegie, Mother Goose, Smarties and Victoria and Albert Museum Illustration Awards are regularly added.

Picture books can also be studied in our Book Design collection, which is strong on imaginative book illustration.

Illustration for 'The Hind in the Wood' by Walter Crane taken from 'Beauty and the Beast picture book: containing Beauty and the Beast, the Frog Prince and The Hind in the Wood'. Published by The Bodley Head (London), 1900.

Illustration for ‘The Hind in the Wood’ by Walter Crane taken from ‘Beauty and the Beast picture book: containing Beauty and the Beast, the Frog Prince and The Hind in the Wood’. Published by The Bodley Head (London), 1900.

Research Potential
The Children’s Collection contains books which could be useful in the research and study of:
– the development of children’s literature from didactic and moralistic to child-centred
– early children’s book illustration, bindings and typography
– the development of fairy tales, legends, fables, poetry and nursery rhymes
– picture books from the era of Kate Greenaway, Randalph Caldecott and Walter Crane to Leslie Brooke, Marjorie Flack and Edmund Dulac
– the development of subject text books in response to changes in education and education legislation, and the understanding of child psychology and child development
– the development of individual fields e.g. mathematics, history, science and natural history
– the adult-child relationship and what is revealed about family life through the text, illustrations and advertisements that these books contain.

The Children’s Books Collection is held in our Reading Room on open access shelving. No appointment is necessary to view this collection. Books may be taken from the shelves and viewed at the tables. Readers may be  asked to wear non-allergenic gloves when viewing the Children’s Books.

Photography is only permitted for the purposes of research or private study. All items within the Children’s Books Collection  remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder’s permission for reproduction of copyright for purposes other than research or private study.

Finding Aids
The collection can be searched on the MMU Library catalogue.  Entries are available under author, title and illustrator.

Shercliff, W. H. (1988) Morality to adventure: Manchester Polytechnic’s collection of children’s books. Manchester Polytechnic Library.



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