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42 3. ‘Entertaining and Instructing Histories’: Children’s Chapbook Literature in the Nineteenth Century VALENTINA BOLD My title is taken from a children’s chapbook: The Entertaining and Instructing History of Little Jack. It precisely identifies the functions of nineteenthcentury chapbooks for children: to amuse and to teach. This chapter provides an overview of the history of children’s chapbooks in Scotland, their production and characteristics. There are four sections to this essay. In the first, Scottish children’s chapbooks are set in context, the next two consider ‘entertaining’ and ‘instructing’ tales in turn, focussing on a small selection of representative texts. The final section considers a chapbook which is both ‘entertaining’ and ‘instructing’, not to mention sensational – a text which, to the modern audience, may read as somewhat bizarre. The purpose is to establish the main characteristics and thematic concerns of children’s chapbooks in nineteenth-century Scotland. It might be possible to detect a ‘missing link’ between the texts mentioned and the work of today’s successful children’s writers. Parallels can be drawn, for instance, between the more humorous illustrated chapbooks to the work of Julia Donaldson, between tales of adventure and John Buchan, and between stories of dark magic and the work of J. K. Rowling. While there is no suggestion that these writers had or have a deep knowledge of chapbook literature, perhaps the concerns of chapbooks continue into the present milieu. At the outset, I confess that this is work-in-progress, based on a preliminary survey. I would like to thank the National Library of Scotland, the University of Edinburgh’s Special Collections, and the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh. In particular, I am grateful to Julie Coleman and the University of Glasgow’s Special Collections, for permission to include images from their holdings.1 43 children’s chapbook literature Context The history of Scottish children’s chapbooks has been rather neglected in the past, even in works exploring the history of chapbooks such as Leslie Shephard’s The Broadside Ballad (1962), Claude Simpson’s The British Broadside Ballad and its music (1966) or, more recently, Edward J. Cowan and Mike Paterson’s Folk in Print (2006). Victor Neuberg’s classic study of the genre, The Penny Histories (1968), does offer a broad, insightful account of the history, printing and publishers of children’s chapbooks – but solely in England.2 He focusses, in the main, on London and the larger cities, such as Nottingham and Oxford and, while many of the patterns he observes (a move from city to provincial production, for instance) are mirrored in Scotland, there is little detail on the state of play north of the Border. Similarly, whilst chapbook aficionados often recall buying texts from an early age this is primarily recorded in relation to English audiences. John Clare, for instance, saved his money to buy penny tales ‘when hawkers offered them for sale at the door’. These were relatively inexpensive treats – whether bought by parents or by children themselves. Sir Joseph Banks’ sister is supposed to have entered a shop in Shoe Lane and chosen a dozen penny books; she paid a shilling, was given thruppence change and told to take two more.3 What little has been written about Scottish children’s chapbooks specifically has focussed primarily on their production and on their timing. They have been considered as a type of publication representing the period between the first children’s literary productions and modern children’s writing. Their precise significance, and characteristics, though, have been ignored. The only substantial account of the Scottish tradition is an unpublished M.Phil. dissertation by Kirsteen Connor, ‘Youth’s poison?’ (2010).4 This includes a very helpful annotated appendix of almost fifty printers who published children’s literature in Scotland in the nineteenth century, from Aberdeen to Kirkcudbright, Montrose to Ayr. The main centres of production, as might be expected, were in Glasgow and Edinburgh, with other publishers in smaller towns like Montrose, Kirkcudbright, and Dumfries. 44 valentina bold My own first encounter with children’s chapbooks as a phenomenon was whilst working on those for adults, and specifically the David Murray broadsides, held in Glasgow University’s department of Special Collections. Digitising them as part of a project which went online in 2001, as considered elsewhere,5 I noticed one or two titles which would appeal to children. There is a version of ‘Cinderella’, for instance as ‘Catskin’, a rhyming version of the traditional tale (AT 510B). There are...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781908980304
Related ISBN
9781908980298
MARC Record
OCLC
1104628745
Pages
476
Launched on MUSE
2019-06-15
Language
English
Open Access
No
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