Thanks to a generous research grant from the Friends of the Princeton University Library, I spent the better part of June researching there, where I immersed myself in materials from the Cotsen Children’s Library and the Graphic Arts Collection. Their holdings include a wealth of fascinating optical toys, as well as a lot of paper materials related to toys and the history of childhood in general.
Click here to read my research report, in which I detail my experiences and some of my most exciting findings.
The Cotsen Library has a lot of moveable children’s books (books with elements that pop up, fold out, or otherwise transform). One of the more startling examples I found was The Naughty Girl’s & Boys Magic Transformations, published by McLoughlin Bros. circa 1870, which features a series of tales about kids who behave badly and must suffer the consequences. Some of the moral lessons were not immediately clear to a twenty-first century reader, but in many of the stories, bad children are turned into animals, and I think the pictures alone might be enough to scare any kid into submission.
(The image is not from Princeton, but from here).
For more information on the Cotsen Children’s Library, visit their terrific website. Surrounded by friendly and supportive staff and fellow researchers, my trip was both tremendously productive and a lot of fun. I hope to return again!