Children’s literature first emerged as a distinct genre during the 17th and 18th centuries. Its arrival mirrored a shift in Enlightenment-era conceptions of childhood itself: it became increasingly accepted that an individual’s early, formative years represented a period separate from adulthood, embodying its own set of challenges, joys, and aspirations.
The earliest children’s works typically provided moral, religious, or educational instruction. With time, however, these gave way to writings meant to entertain young readers while also enriching their imaginative and emotional development. The Library’s collections of children’s literature, comprising rare books, unique manuscripts, and original artwork, number more than 400,000 items in numerous languages and formats. This selection of books and cherished artifacts, including Winnie-the-Pooh and friends, demonstrates the historical development of the field of children’s literature while also seeking to impart something of the wonder and excitement of youth.
Please note when viewing in the gallery: some items listed here as "on view" have undergone page changes, or have been replaced by similar works from the same series, to preserve and maintain the valued artifacts in accordance with conservation guidelines.