Rediscovery of one of the world's oldest children's books in Keele Library

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Posted on 17 March 2016

This week, Dr Nick Seager was interviewed by Stoke newspaper, The Sentinel, about the rediscovery of an early children's book in Keele Library. A Guide to the Childe and Youth was published in 1667, the same year as Milton's Paradise Lost, and can be viewed by appointment at the library.

The book previously belonged to Mary and Ann Berks of Apedale (Newcastle under Lyme, Staffordshire) around 1776: Mary’s handwriting appears at the back of the book, practising her rhymes. The university became the proud owner of the book almost 300 years later in the 1950s, after receiving the book via a donation from local retired schoolteacher, Eliza Tittensor.

The book includes details about the divisions of coins, including farthings and shillings, and shows how to work out a sum of money and count up the pence. It also promoted loyalty to the newly restored king, Charles II (whose father had been executed just under 20 years earlier). A writer like Daniel Defoe (then aged 7) may have encounted another copy of this book.

Dr. Seager writes: 'We are very proud to have this unique book available to our students. As well as offering our current and prospective students the opportunity to read works of literature from all periods and across the world, we can also give them an idea of how literature has developed since the 17th century, with the help of works such as the Guide.'