The Acquisitions Table: Children’s Book with Paper Dolls

The History and Adventures of Little Eliza. Philadelphia: William Charles, 1811.

This imprint is among the earliest American editions of a book first printed in London accompanied by a set of paper dolls. The celebrated Philadelphia engraver and publisher William Charles integrated the images with the text as a picture book, complete with his subtle background clues. Eliza is a smart but disobedient little girl who runs away from home. She ultimately hits bottom as a street beggar before she is re-united with her parents. In the above illustration, we see Eliza before her travail, reading a book. She is a well-dressed little girl surrounded by potted plants, alluding to her pampered and sheltered existence.

Purchased from Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Co. Ruth E. Adomeit Book Fund.

The entire text of Little Eliza can be seen online at AAS’s exhibition: A Place of Reading.

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