Today we went on a field trip for my Creative Arts class. We went to Lillian H. Smith Public Library, the amazing children's library here in Toronto, at College and Spadina. The fourth floor of this crazy building houses a public rare children's books reference library called the Osborne Collection. It specializes in the development of English Children's Literature, and is made up of over 80000 "rare and notable children's books."
It was deeply deeply awesome. Leslie McGrath - one of the reference librarians who cares for and curates the Osborne collection - did an amazing presentation for us, basically taking us on a tour of the history of books, printing and children's literature in about 40 minutes. The Osborne collection was set up as a way to prevent revisionist history, and she described some of the unsavoury and downright awful things that are kept in the collection to show that yes, people at one time thought ________________ (fill in the blank with whatever dumb, backward idea you want). It's a brilliant thing that teaches not just about books and kid's lit, but also about attitudes and context and history and the shifting tide of our society.
It was really mind-blowing to see a cuneiform tablet from Mesopotamia, made 3000 years ago. It's the oldest thing in the Library!! Next on the list of awesomeness was a 600 year old book, hand-written and illuminated with ink and quill on animal skin. It's a book of Aesop's fables written from the fourteenth century! Whoa!!!! Then, it was pretty awesome to learn about why kids books were so gruesome in the 1600s, how the first English storybook that wasn't written to either terrorize kids or teach them manners was about bugs, and how Alice in Wonderland is the first example Leslie could find in the English language of a book that is written as a joke between the author and it's readers.
I'd tell you more but you should just go and check it out for yourselves if you can. It was really, really great.
book lovin' nerd OUT!
PS - I finished my papers! Yipeeee! I made it through! AND I'm healthy again. On to the next...