Author Archives: Laura Wasowicz

About Laura Wasowicz

Curator of Children's Literature, American Antiquarian Society

The Acquisitions Table: Grandmamma Easy’s Joseph and His Brethren

Grandmamma Easy’s Joseph and His Brethren. Albany: William B. Sprague, Jr., ca. 1840-1860. This picture book history of the Old Testament hero Joseph gives the modern reader a precious glance into popular mid-nineteenth-century American iconography portraying the Middle East. Jacob’s family is seen here nestled among palm trees, pyramids, and obelisks, with camels in tow.  Albany ...

The Tempest Over “The Baby’s Opera”

Nineteenth-century American publisher McLoughlin Brothers pioneered the use of chromolithography in the production of color picture books starting in the 1860s.  Until that point, most children’s books were illustrated with wood engravings that were locked into the printing press form along with set type.  Coloring these images generally entailed using hand-colored stencils or employing a ...

The Acquisitions Table: Moral Tales for Young People

Edgeworth, Maria.  Moral Tales for Young People.New York: George Long, 1821. It is always gratifying to discover another edition of Maria Edgeworth’s popular Moral Tales that is new to AAS.  George Long (1771?-1843) produced a steady output of textbooks and children’s books, many of which were written by British and European authors, including Miss Edgeworth.  Interestingly, ...

The Acquisitions Table: The Blue Ribbons

Drury, Anna H.  The Blue Ribbons: A Story of the Last Century.  Boston: Whittemore, Niles and Hall, 1856. This is truly a mid-nineteenth-century creation: a fairy tale set in the eighteenth century!  Alexis, a young boy growing up in Louis XIV’s France, encounters a beautiful and benevolent female fairy in the forest—who turns out to be ...

The Acquisitions Table: Ruth Chenery

Davis, Caroline E. Kelly.  Ruth Chenery.  Boston: Henry Hoyt, ca. 1867. This comic frontispiece captures the embarrassment of young Ruth Chenery; the well-intentioned young woman made a pudding only to discover that she had used a cracked and hopelessly damaged dish, and she receives a sound scolding from her maiden Aunt Keziah.  The struggle of high-spirited ...

The Acquisitions Table: Byerly’s New American Spelling-Book

Byerly, Stephen.  Byerly’s New American Spelling-Book.  Philadelphia: M’Carty & Davis, 1830.  This lovely wood engraving of the exotic Caribbean parrot fish is taken from a speller written by Quaker school teacher Stephen Byerly (c. 1797-1850).  His spelling and reading lessons are punctuated with clear illustrations of animals both common and uncommon to his young readers ...

The Acquisitions Table: Pictures for Baby to Draw

Art in the Nursery.  Pictures for Baby to Draw. And Pictures for Baby to Laugh At. Boston: D. Lothrop & Co., ca. 1879. This small oblong (5 ¼ x 7 ½ inch) book imitates in miniature the format of drawing books for older children and youth.  The chromolithographed cover depicts boys and girls together creating artwork ...

The Acquisitions Table: Iu Pitabun

Mortimer, Favell Lee.  Iu Pitabun.  Boston: American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, 1844.  This is an extremely rare Chippewa language translation of Favell Lee Mortimer’s adaptation of Bible stories.  It was formerly owned by renowned Americana collector George Brinley (1817-1875), whose collection was sold off in a series of auctions after his death.  This ...

The Acquisitions Table: A Cheap Primer for the Blind

A Cheap Primer for the Blind.  Louisville, Ky.: American Printing House for the Blind, 1874. This primer is printed in large oblong format with raised-letter type known as Boston line.  AAS has some thirty titles printed in Boston line; about half of which were actually published for the blind, as opposed to providing samples of the ...

Children’s books today, Adopt-a-Book event tomorrow!

We hope to see you in the library in person tomorrow, Tuesday, April 3, at 6 p.m.  AAS's 5th annual Adopt-a-Book event will be an evening of food, drinks, original collection materials, and curatorial knowledge-sharing (although some of the preceeding are going to be kept separate from each other). You can browse the 2012 Adopt-A-Book Catalog to view the ...

The Acquisitions Table: The American Juvenile Pictoral Primer

The American Juvenile Pictorial Primer. New York: Edward Dunigan, 1843. Up until about 1820, The New England Primer, with its religiously inspired alphabet, account of John Rogers’s burning at the stake, and religious dialogues, dominated the American primer market. By the 1840s, secular primers like The American Juvenile Primer featuring pictures and large type became quite ...

Can You Read This Image?

Recently, I was catching up on cataloging the nineteenth-century editions of Isaac Watts’ Divine Songs given to us by the great collector of early American and English children’s books Wilbur Macey Stone (1862-1941).  One of them, a well-worn edition issued by New York publisher Mahlon Day in 1830, contains a mutilated frontispiece depicting this interesting ...