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Stories Before 1850. 0056: Anecdotes for Children

Author: Various
Title: Anecdotes for children. Collected from the best authors, and Recent Occurrences
Cat. Number: 0056
Date: 1796
1st Edition:
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: Darton and Harvey, 55 Gracechurch-Street
Price: Unknown
Pages: 1 vol., 102pp.
Size: 13.5 x 8.5 cm
Illustrations: Engraved frontispiece

Images of all pages of this book

Page 003 of item 0056

Introductory essay

Collected miscellanies of short pieces of literature for adults had become popular in Britain by the late eighteenth century. Publication such as The Annual Review were established with the stated intention of sorting the wheat from the chaff, and providing their readers with excerpts from each year's best writing. Anecdotes for Children was apparently an attempt to extend this genre to take in children's literature. It is therefore a testament to the existence of a market for children's books which, by 1796, had become extensive and respectable enough to merit a digest. Viewed from another point of view, though, Anecdotes for Children may just as well represent a shameless attempt by Darton and Harvey to publish a slim volume to add to their list at minimal expense.

The provenances of the excerpts which fill Anecdotes for Children are varied. Many excerpts, like the account of a meteor which opens the volume (p.1) are simply descriptions of recent events, perhaps cribbed from newspaper reports or perhaps written specially for this publication. Other excerpts derive from named sources such as Thomas Bewick and Ralph Beilby's General History of Quadrupeds, first published in 1790 ('A Hottentot...', p.29), or John Aikin and Anna Lætitia Barbauld's equally celebrated Evenings at Home (e.g. 'The Young Mouse', p.13), first published 1792-96. Somewhat surprisingly, neither of these works were published by Darton and Harvey. If there is a single theme uniting the diverse content of the volume it is that moral lessons, and entertainment, may be derived from observing nature.