Imagined Worlds: Texts for Children

Page from a book with an illustration of a man in a long robe showing a young boy a scroll. Text beneath the illustration reads: "T, is for Timothy, taught in his youth to love and to study the Scriptures of truth."
The alphabet of Scripture, for children: printed in oil colors, p.28. c.1800-1899, New York : Hurd & Houghton. Special Collections & Archives, Florida State University Libraries,
View digital copy here.

This oil printed color illustration is from The Alphabet of Scripture, For Children, a beautifully illustrated 19th-century abecedarian that was designed to teach the alphabet through the use of biblical figures. Our featured page is T, depicting a young Timothy diligently learning his letters in order to read the “Scripture of truth.” Perhaps this was also the hope of T.I. Gordon for his daughter, Mary L. Gordon, when he gifted this book to her in 1866 to mark her second birthday. Certainly this book represents more than a means to learn letters, but also the hopes of these parents for their child’s future. As Mary’s mother writes in a short poem beneath her father’s inscription, “May all your life as bright unfold / and sorrows[sic] dart ere from you flee.”

The Alphabet of Scripture is a volume in the John MacKay Shaw Collection of Childhood in Poetry. John MacKay Shaw (1897-1984) was a Scottish-born American businessman and philanthropist who collected works of British and American poetry related to the theme of childhood. His original collection of first and rare editions of major poets, Victorian gift books, children’s periodicals, and reference works was donated to FSU Libraries in 1959 and has since grown to over 25,000 volumes. If the Shaw collection did not provide enough children’s literature for you, or perhaps you are interested in more modern offerings, then you are in luck: SCA also includes the Marsha Gontarski and Lois Lenski collections.

Below, explore some of our blog posts on the topic of children’s literature.

Burns Night

Today, January 25, is a day to celebrate the national bard of Scotland, Robert Burns. Burns was a poet and songwriter who left a deep imprint on the world in his short 37 years. His first collection of poetry Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect was published in 1786. This first edition is known asContinue reading “Burns Night”

Celebrating Jane Yolen

May is Jewish Heritage Month and to celebrate, I wanted to also find a woman author on our shelves to highlight on the blog. I was excited, and a little embarrassed I didn’t already know, to find that Jane Yolen is a Jewish American author for whom we hold copies of primarily her children’s booksContinue reading “Celebrating Jane Yolen”

Pocket books: small volumes in the Shaw Collection

Today we are celebrating John MacKay Shaw on the anniversary of his death in 1984. Shaw (1897-1984) was a Scottish-born American businessman and philanthropist who collected works of British and American poetry related to the theme of childhood.  When talking about the Shaw collection, we often highlight the 5,000 first and rare editions of majorContinue reading “Pocket books: small volumes in the Shaw Collection”

Summer Quiet

Summer is indeed a quieter time on campus. Today starts the summer term here at FSU and we wish all students the best of luck in their summer classes. We recently posted in DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository more volumes of The Girl’s Own Paper, or The Girl’s Own Annual as it was eventually titled. YouContinue reading “Summer Quiet”

The Lord Mayor’s Show

In loading some new titles to the John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection, I noticed an event popping up in several of the texts. The Lord Mayor’s Show, an event still held today, was a popular topic in British children’s books in the 1800s. Children’s books in this era were often used to educateContinue reading “The Lord Mayor’s Show”

A Moment in Time: Nostalgia in the Shaw Manuscript Collection

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Celita Summa who was our Shaw expert this semester as she shifted through his personal papers to select for a digitization project. She’s going abroad in the spring and we’ll miss her. Bon Voyage Celita! While sifting through the Shaw manuscript collection, I discovered that many of Shaw’sContinue reading “A Moment in Time: Nostalgia in the Shaw Manuscript Collection”

Black and white illustration taken from The Gashlycrumb Tinies of a two little girls at a table, one skeletal and dead, presumably related to the large bottle atop the table. It is captioned “Z is for Zillah who drank too much gin."

Scary Books for Children?: Edward Gorey in the Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection

This is a guest-post by students Josalin Hughes and Julia Kleser, Editing, Writing, and Media majors, whose project for their Advanced Writing and Editing course this semester is to help create content highlighting portions of Special Collections holdings.  As we progress from the otherworldly and spooky atmosphere of October and deeper into the holiday spiritContinue reading “Scary Books for Children?: Edward Gorey in the Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection”

Girl’s Own Paper

This post is part of our series celebrating American Archives Month. Last week, Special Collections & Archives did a Twitter Takeover of the @fsulibraries feed for #AskAnArchivist day so be sure to check out those conversations.  The Digital Library Center has been busy loading material into DigiNole, and one of the most recent additions is the Girl’s OwnContinue reading “Girl’s Own Paper”

Responding to Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A Children’s Book Calls for Peace

War & Peace for Children The Special Collections book we’re highlighting today has a very specific mission: to teach children (and perhaps, the adults reading to or with them) about the post-nuclear world, and about the need for peace. On the Wings of Peace: In Memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a 1995 collection ofContinue reading “Responding to Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A Children’s Book Calls for Peace”

Journeys in the Shaw Collection: Bohemian Grove Plays

The Green Knight FSU’s John M. Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection is vast and covers myriad topics. While most are books intended for children, or books containing poetry, or both, in many cases the texts deviate from the collection’s title altogether. Such is the case with The Green Knight: A Vision. In a catalog searchContinue reading “Journeys in the Shaw Collection: Bohemian Grove Plays”

The History of Paper Engineering

The following blog post was written by Special Collections & Archives staff member April Martin. Literature with functional qualities such as pull tabs or pop-ups are often considered children’s entertainment. However, paper products with mechanical elements were originally created as tools used by adults. Religious calendars, calculation tools, and navigational aids were found in theContinue reading “The History of Paper Engineering”

In his “Great Shadow”: Robert Burns’ Legacy

Robert Burns’ ability to spontaneously produce musical and poignant verse earned him the title of “Scotland’s Bard,” and ensured that his legacy would remain especially close to that nation’s people and their descendants. Special Collections & Archives’ forthcoming exhibit, “In his ‘Great Shadow’: Robert Burns’ Legacy,” opening January 22nd, explores not only the lyrical finesseContinue reading “In his “Great Shadow”: Robert Burns’ Legacy”

Happy Holidays from FSU Special Collections

All of us here in Special Collections & Archives wish you and your family a safe and wonderful holiday season! We have a series of children’s books in the Shaw collection that was published especially for children at the holidays in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This cover comes from one of our favoritesContinue reading “Happy Holidays from FSU Special Collections”

The comic adventures of Old Mother Hubbard, and her dog.

The Digital Library Center is currently digitizing a number of hand-colored chapbooks from the John MacKay Shaw Collection. Chapbooks derive their name from the chapmen who sold them. Peddlers and tradesmen would offer small, cheap books among their wares, often accounts of fairy tales or current political events, lessons in language and song, or engaging stories.Continue reading “The comic adventures of Old Mother Hubbard, and her dog.”

The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women

The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women, Illustrated by As Many Engravings; Exhibiting Their Principal Eccentricities and Amusements (1820) was recently added to the John MacKay Shaw Collection of Childhood in Poetry. It was published in London by prominent children’s publisher John Harris as part of “Harris’s Cabinet of Amusement and Instruction.” These little books, “printedContinue reading “The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women”

Happy Birthday, Beatrix Potter!

July 28, 2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Helen Beatrix Potter in Kensington, London. Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) is best known as the author and illustrator of children’s classics like The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Benjamin Bunny. These delightful stories, set in the English countryside, were originally drawn and written as greetingContinue reading “Happy Birthday, Beatrix Potter!”

A Book Collector’s Legacy

At over 22,000 rare books and over 65 linear feet of manuscript materials, The John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection is easily the largest single collection in FSU Special Collections & Archives. It serves as a living testament to its creator, John MacKay Shaw (May 15, 1897-March 15, 1984), an AT&T business executive, philanthropist, writer,Continue reading “A Book Collector’s Legacy”

Accessioning a Rare Book Collection : Part II

After the successful transport and unloading of the Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection, I began the process of creating an inventory of all the books in the collection — an excel spreadsheet that is currently at 300 entries and steadily growing. This spreadsheet will serve not only as a record of all the books received in theContinue reading “Accessioning a Rare Book Collection : Part II”

Accessioning a Rare Book Collection: Part I

One of the most common questions I get from undergraduate students during instruction sessions is some variation of “How do materials end up in Special Collections?” There are many answers to this question, of course, but one of the most important ways we receive materials is through donations. With our rare book collections, we are particularlyContinue reading “Accessioning a Rare Book Collection: Part I”

A Birthday Letter to John MacKay Shaw: Poet, Book Collector, Scholar, and Lover of Children

Hi Pop! Happy Birthday!! You’ll never guess what I’ve been up to since your 100th birthday. Imitating you, that’s what, or at least trying to. But there’s no way I will ever have your gift of gab, your great love of children, or your extraordinary management skills. You described your books; I’m describing your papers. ThatContinue reading “A Birthday Letter to John MacKay Shaw: Poet, Book Collector, Scholar, and Lover of Children”

The Poetry of Sacred Song

Within the John Mackay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection is a small but substantial sub-collection of sacred music books. From Sunday School primers to hymnals meant to be used at home, Shaw collected these as examples of what was often a child’s first introduction to poetry, hymns on Sundays. In his bibliography which lists theContinue reading “The Poetry of Sacred Song”

The Travels of a Fox on His Way to the Grapes

The Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection has just received the gift of a crocheted representation of Aesop’s fable “The Fox and the Grapes.” Sometime many years ago, an industrious native of The Seychelles, a country of islands nearest to Africa in the Indian Ocean, used a crochet hook to knot this piece of fabric art.Continue reading “The Travels of a Fox on His Way to the Grapes”

Following a Mystery with One of Our Volunteers

Cathmar Prange is the daughter of John MacKay Shaw, the donor and curator for the childhood in poetry collection that bears his name in Special Collections & Archives. Every winter, Cathmar volunteers to continue organizing and curating her father’s collection and has been doing so for 18 years. She is still discovering things to thisContinue reading “Following a Mystery with One of Our Volunteers”

Girl’s Own Annual now available in the FSUDL

Thanks to the efforts of our graduate assistants, Katherine and Rebecca, Volumes 38 and 39 of The Girl’s Own Annual is now available in the FSU Digital Library as part of our Poetry during World War I collection. Published in Britain from 1880 until 1956, The Girl’s Own Annual, alternatively known as the Girl’s OwnContinue reading “Girl’s Own Annual now available in the FSUDL”

The War at Home

As Katherine previously mentioned here, our latest project in the Special Collections & Archives Division has been digitizing issues from “The Girl’s Own Annual.”  A British serial intended for girls, young women and their mothers, “The Girl’s Own Annual” offers unique historical insight into the contemporary perceptions (and propaganda!) of World War I. Overall, theContinue reading “The War at Home”

A Girl’s Own Christmas

In our latest adventures as graduate assistants, Rebecca Bramlett and I have been learning how to digitize serials for the FSU Digital Library. This process involves scanning materials in the Digital Library Center, editing them, uploading them, and creating metadata for each issue. Using metadata to describe important features of the serials – such as date issued,Continue reading “A Girl’s Own Christmas”

A Lot of Nonsense

A new digital collection is now available in the FSU Digital Library! Edward Lear was a British poet and painter. Although he wrote many poetry volumes and travel journals, he is best known for his Book of Nonsense, first published in 1846, which consists of drawings and short poems he wrote for the grandchildren ofContinue reading “A Lot of Nonsense”

John MacKay Shaw: The Man Behind the Collection

Dr. Teri Abstein’s Spring 2014 Museum Object class, in collaboration with FSU’s Special Collections & Archives, is pleased to present its exhibit, John MacKay Shaw: The Man Behind the Collection. Shaw was born in Scotland and immigrated to the United States as a teen. After marriage and having his own children, Shaw began his collection ofContinue reading “John MacKay Shaw: The Man Behind the Collection”

There was an owl

From the preface: Notwithstanding the number of Nursery Rhyme-Books already in existence, there is still room for additional ones, especially such as, being set to Music, and enlivened by humorous Wood-cut Illustrations, shall thereby recommend themselves to the growing taste and sentiment of the day. Such a little book is the present. The Rhymes haveContinue reading “There was an owl”

Valentine’s Day

FEBRUARY The sun rides higher Every trip. The sidewalk shows. Icicles drip. A snowstorm comes, And cars are stuck, And ashes fly From the old town truck. The chickadees Grow plump on seed That Mother pours Where they can feed, And snipping, snipping Scissors run To cut out hearts For everyone. by John Updike inContinue reading “Valentine’s Day”

Holiday Display

Celebrating the Holidays with an Exhibit from Special Collections and Archives Having a winter-theme display in the Reading Room has become something for the FSU students to browse when they want to take a break from studying for finals. With this year’s theme, I immediately started brainstorming and knew I wanted to use cookbooks. TheContinue reading “Holiday Display”

A Poem for Mother’s Day

This little book, My Mother: a Poem, by Ann Taylor, was published between 1825 and 1833.  It is from our John McKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry book collection and is only 1.75″ x 3″. The John MacKay Shaw Collection, includes over 22,400 books in the Childhood in Poetry Collection and over 46 linear feet of otherContinue reading “A Poem for Mother’s Day”

Happy 4th of July from FSU Libraries Special Collections!

Text by Kat Bell and Gina Woodward Photographs by Kat Bell In honor of the upcoming Independence Day celebration, Florida State University Libraries Special Collections would like to feature a small selection of books from our collections that relate to the holiday. This post has inspired us to create a new section to this blog:Continue reading “Happy 4th of July from FSU Libraries Special Collections!”


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Drop By

Special Collections Research Center

116 Honors Way

Tallahassee, FL 32306

Claude Pepper Library and Museum

636 West Call Street

Tallahassee, FL 32306

Heritage Museum

641 University Way

Tallahassee, FL 32306

Visit Us

%d bloggers like this: