by Angela Terrab

Do you have an interest in early children’s literature? Or are you just looking for gorgeous 18th century illustrations kick off your next craft? In either case, the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature should be one of your first stops.

ABC for Baby Patriots, a featured text from the Baldwin Library.

ABC for Baby Patriots, a featured text from the Baldwin Library.

The Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature is the nation’s preeminent resource for researchers interested in children’s literature. The Baldwin Library, a special collection of the University of Florida’s George A. Smathers Library, boasts over 130,000 volumes of children’s literature with an emphasis on 18th and 19th century British and American imprints.

The Baldwin Library began from Ruth Baldwin’s personal collection of 35,000 books, generously donated to the UF in 1977. Since then, the collection has grown nearly fourfold into a diverse collection containing “the Hans Christian Andersen Awards Collection, Little Golden Books, religious tracts, and illustrated editions from the Golden Age of Children’s Literature” as well as “assorted ephemera such as board games, puzzles, and toys” (from the home page).

For those of us who can’t make it to Florida for our next children’s lit fix, the Baldwin Library has been undergoing a massive digitization project. The library has contributed almost 60,000 titles  to University of Florida Digital Collections. While search and browse features in the digital collection are primitive and may deter casual users, intrepid librarians (like ourselves) will be rewarded with high quality, cover-to-cover scans.

Cover for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with Arthur Rackham illustrations.

Cover for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with Arthur Rackham illustrations.

In an arena where Google Books reigns supreme, the Baldwin Library’s digital collection displays an archivist’s sensibility that is sure to attract serious users. Marginalia and inscriptions are recorded and preserved, testifying to the books’ beloved status in personal libraries.

The library also features comparative editions of many texts, with subcollections including Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland, Robinson Crusoe, and Grimm’s Fairytales. Download a copy of Alice with John Tenniel’s iconic illustrations, or compare a later edition featuring Arthur Rackham’s surreal, full-color plates. Or,  browse for more obscure (but equally ornate) titles, and prepare to be inspired.

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