Cotsen Occasional Press edition of Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song-book wins BSA’s Schiller Prize

At the January, 2016 meeting of the Bibliographical Society of America (BSA) in New York City, the winner of BSA’s tri-annual Justin G. Schiller Prize for Bibliographical Work on Pre-20th-Century Children’s Books was announced…

Tommy Thumb’s pretty song-book : the first collection of English nursery rhymes

“Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song-book : the First Collection of English Nursery Rhymes” (Cotsen Occasional Pres, 2013) – Rare Books (Ex) Oversize Item 6573272q

And the envelope please…

The winner was the Cotsen Occasional Press publication, Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song-Book: The First Collection of English Nursery Rhymes, by Andrea Immel, Curator of the Cotsen Children’s Library, and Brian Alderson, children’s book historian, critic, author, and editor.  The publication includes an illustrated, book-length essay (Nurse Lovechild’s Legacy) by Immel and Alderson and three facsimiles of eighteenth-century children’s miniature-book-sized publications: Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song-Book, vol. 2 (London: Mary Cooper, ca. 1744); Tommy Thumb’s Song Book (Worcester, Mass.: Isaiah Thomas, 1788); and The Pretty-Book (London: George Bickham, ca. 1750).

The originals of these three early children’s books are rare books, indeed: only one copy of The Pretty-Book and only two copies of Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book are now known to exist.

In making the award, BSA termed the 2016 prize-winning publication a “valuable contribution to the ongoing revision of children’s book history” and noted how Immel and Alderson:

contextualize Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song-Book within the histories of nursery rhymes, oral lore and earlier children’s books [and] also locate publishing for children as a mainstream activity, challenging longstanding assumptions about who was publishing for children at this time. Reconstructing the social geography of London, they demonstrate links between Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song-Book and adult literature, antiquarianism, music, theater, politics, and numerous other aspects of mid-eighteenth century society.

Nurse Lovechild’s authors also argue for the foundational importance of Cooper’s “revolutionary” Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song-Book in the history of children’s literature, rather than John Newbery’s more well-known book, The Little Pretty Pocketbook, which has traditionally been accorded pride of place in terms of being the “first” book created specifically for children.

"Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song-book":

“Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song-book”: Detail of the three miniature facsimiles, with “Tommy Thumb’s Song Book” opened to show its title page and frontispiece.

Cotsen Library — and the Princeton University Library — would like to congratulate the prize-winning authors!

The set is available from Brill.


Building a Better Blog for 2016 and Beyond

In December, the Cotsen Curatorial Blog published its one hundredth post!  Its band of writers–Jeff Barton, Minjie Chen, Ian Dooley and I–are looking forward to finding the next one hundred subjects to surprise, inform, and amuse old friends and, with any luck, catch the eyes of many new ones.

In addition to writing lavishly illustrated posts, a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to make the site more useful.  The list of categories been beefed up and the posts reindexed so that the contents can be accessed in a variety of ways, so visitors with different interests can see if anything has been published on their topics.

Visitor A has just heard about  the Cotsen Children’s Library and is curious about  what goes on there.  By going to the pull-down menu headed “Categories” on the right hand side of the page and looking at the complete list, that  she will find “News,” which will pull up announcements about major gifts, exhibitions, new gallery publications, improvements to the Cotsen Bookscape gallery, etc.

Visitor X, on the other hand, wants to learn a little about the rare book collection, just to get a general idea of what there is.  He might want to call up posts in the categories of “Classics,” “Fairy and Folk Tales,” “Nursery Rhymes,” “Beatrix Potter” or “ABC and Alphabets.”   Enter  “Potter” in the search box in the upper right hand corner of the screen, and Harry Potter will come up too.

Visitor L is an animal lover, a great cook, and a reader of mysteries.   She could try her luck using the search box.  Lions?  Mice?  Black Cats?   How about food or murders?  There is some surprising stuff buried in this blog…

Visitor Q is a graduate student in East Asian Studies who is thinking about applying for a Friends of the Princeton University Library Research but wants a better sense of the Chinese-language holdings before making up her mind.  She can find several leads under categories: “20th century;” “Research reports;” and “East Asian children’s books.”

Last but not least, Visitor F is a bookish person with wide-ranging interests.  Have we got a site for you!   Categories will lead F to things like “Annotations in Books and Manuscripts,” “Bindings,” Ephemera,” “Graphic Design,” “Manuscripts,” “Moveables,” “Original Artwork,” “Prints,” and “Wall Charts.”   The search box will pull up things like names of illustrators, engravers, and titles of books mentioned in posts.  There is also a series called “Marks in books” that features defaced frontispieces, doodles, signatures of former owners, and more…

But don’t take our word for it–please feel free to explore the curatorial blog on your own.  Work to improve the tags will continue through the winter.

Stay tuned in the coming months for a report on Cotsen’s textiles, a survey of Cotsen’s extensive collection of books by Raduga, the great Soviet independent children’s book publisher of the 1920s, a peek into an eighteenth-century toy store, more letters by Marcus French, and a review of Jim McKay’s illustrations for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  And who knows what else in the collection will inspire us?