Children's literature was a special interest throughout J. K. Lilly's
collecting career, and he sought out the masterpieces of juvenile
literature as avidly as those of adult literature. Today, the Lilly
Library holds nearly 10,000 children's books, most of them from the
Elisabeth Ball collection which came to the Library in 1983. The
emphasis of the collection is on English language books of the
18th and 19th centuries, but also includes a
large number of 20th century books and representative works
in French and German. There are hornbooks, mechanical books, thumb Bibles, miniature libraries, Newberry and Marshall imprints, and original art by children's book illustrators, including Kate Greenaway, Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, and Ernest Shepard.
Some of the treasures of the Elisabeth Ball collection are:
- A Little Pretty Pocket-Book (published by John Newberry, 1744). The earliest surviving copy from the tenth edition resides at the British Library; the next earliest edition and only known copy from 1763 is this one in the Lilly Library.
- Eight of ten volumes of Gigantik
Histories (published by Thomas Boreman, 1740-1742)
- The History of Little Goody Two Shoes (published by John Newberry, 1768, fifth edition)
- Mother Goose's Melody; or Sonnets for the Cradle (1791)
- The Ball collection also contains a number of curious and fascinating related materials: more than 2,100 eighteenth-century chapbooks; 37 printed and two manuscript harlequinades; 27 hornbooks of silver, ivory, wood, leather, brass, and paper; 11 boxed infant's libraries, as well as numerous miniature books, including thumb Bibles, mechanical books, and board and card games.
Some of the treasures of the J. K. Lilly collection:
- Harry Castlemon's adventure stories for boys
- The Swiss Family Robinson. The Lilly has copies of this classic in its first appearance in magazine form as well as the first edition Der Schwizersche Robinson (Zurich, 1812-1815), the first French translation, and the first American printing.
- first editions of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (Boston, 1870), Horatio Alger's Ragged Dick (Boston, 1868),
George W. Peck's Peck's Bad Boy and His
Pa (Chicago, 1883), and Anna Sewell's Black
Beauty (London, 1887).
Other treasures include:
- the finest collection of George Alfred Henty, British writer of
adventure stories for boys
- the finest collection of the works of Andrew Lang, Scottish
historian, poet, and novelist, especially famous for his children's books
- first Italian and English editions of Pinocchio
- a first edition of Johanna Spyri's Heidi (Gotha, 1880)
Related exhibition catalogues include:
- XLI. For Your Amusement and Instruction: The Elisabeth Ball
Collection of Historical Children's Materials
- L. Children's Books Published by William Darton and His Sons [ online version available ]
To purchase exhibition catalogues, see information on the Lilly Library's Publications. To search the Library's catalog and other finding aids, see the Collections page.
Top: "A Sunflower", "A Target": detail from Children's Pictures To Amuse And Instruct [London, ca. 1825].