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Take a look, it’s in a rare book! Children’s lit in Special Collections

Prof. West and students look at books

The Dalton Reading Room holds such a variety of treasures there is probably something of interest to any class. Last week, students in Professor Mark West’s “American Children’s Literature” course (ENGL 4103) dug into our near-complete run of the St. Nicholas Children’s Magazine to learn from these primary sources how stories for children were published and distributed in the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century.

First published in November 1873, these magazines entertained children for 70 years until their final issue in 1943. Mary Mapes Dodge, author of Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates, served as the primary editor for the first eight years of publication. She and her successor, William Fayal Clarke, convinced several well-known authors to write stories for it, including Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Louisa May Alcott and Rudyard Kipling. In fact, Kipling’s The Jungle Book first appeared in St. Nicholas in 1893 after Dodge requested he write a story for children, which he had never done before.

The magazine contains beautiful illustrations from some of the best-known artists of the time, such as Charles Dana Gibson, Howard Pyle and Norman Rockwell. Many of the issues in Special Collections are bound in an attractive red and gold binding, a service that the magazine’s publishers offered to its subscribers once they accumulated six issues.

The St. Nicholas volumes take their place among other treasures of our children's literature collection such early movable books, pennybacks and the Wizard of Oz series. We hope you will come in and discover something amazing for yourself!

– Randi Beem and Andrew Pack