Currently on exhibit in the John G. White corridor through September, 2007: illustrations of Walter Crane, items relating to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, and 19th Century children's bookbindings.
Childhood, as we think about it today, is a relatively new concept. Until the 17th century, children were thought of as small versions of adults and treated accordingly. In most societies, children were a source of labor. There were some books (mostly for the children of wealthy families) even before the invention of movable type by Gutenberg in 1455, but they were instructional in nature and were used to instill lessons of morality, manners, and religion.
Over the course of the next few centuries, there was a gradual shift in attitude toward children which was reflected in the reading material produced for them. Hornbooks and chapbooks appeared, still designed to instruct, but some included woodcut illustrations in addition to ABCs and religious lessons. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, Robin Hood, Mother Goose tales, Robinson Crusoe, and Gulliver's Travels were among the titles that were published which appealed to the world of a child's imagination. A Visit from St. Nicholas (‘Twas the night before Christmas...') by Clement C. Moore was published in 1823 and was one of the first works to introduce humor and laughter into the world of children's literature. This was followed by limericks and poems by Edward Lear (Book of Nonsense) and the masterpiece Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
In the middle of the 19th century, there were major changes in how book illustrations were produced. Until then, wood engraving was the norm; with the development of chromolithography, which permitted printing in many colors, the world of book illustration changed dramatically. The marriage of colorful, fanciful pictures with more imaginative text forever changed the world of children's books.
William Howard Brett, Director of Cleveland Public Library from 1884 to1918, believed strongly that children needed to have books of their own and a special space in the library. Eventually the Lewis Carroll room for younger children and the Robert Louis Stevenson room for older children were created to accommodate the books and programs for children. Many of the books in this display were originally housed in those collections.
The display illustrating the development of bookbinding in the 19th century reflects the change in cloth bindings from simple utilitarian designs to the more elaborate decorations that appealed to a child's imagination.
The John G. White chess collection has a large number of different editions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll because of the role that chess plays in the story.
Walter Crane, whose work is highlighted in this exhibit, was a British artist and one of the first people to use the new printing techniques to bring color and design techniques into the world of children's literature.