Children's reading books 1860–1960

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One of the aims of the project was to provide an historical overview of changes in typography and book design, and to account for such variation through the educational context, production constraints and the views of publishers, in order to answer such questions as:

  • How did picture usage reflect change in printing technology?
  • How were young readers encourage to engage with pictures in reading books?
  • What typographic features did publishers think would sell reading books?
  • To what extent is a particular method of teaching reading reflected through graphic configuration and typography?
  • The database contains detailed records of the visual attributes of a representative sample of reading books for young children dating from around 1850 to around 1960. It provides information about typography, use of illustration, navigation, structures, format, binding and printing processes, and allows you to view high-quality illustrations of relevant elements. The books recorded in the database are a representative selection of those used for the teaching of reading to young children between 1860 and 1960. These books are usually described as primers or infant readers. As well as intended age group, a number of other factors influenced their inclusion: publication by a key educational publisher (such as Chambers, Blackie, Nelson, Collins and Simpkin Marshall), or being listed in a publication that would have influenced the purchase of books for use in schools (such as the London County Council’s ‘List of books, maps, music and diagrams approved for use in London schools maintained by the Council’. which was published in numerous editions from the early 1900s until the 1950s).