Most of my research into our Native American literature collection has focused on the very earliest publications from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but the majority of our recent acquisitions have been of newer books. When we state that our goal is to document as comprehensively as possible the full range of publications by Indigenous writers of North America, that includes everything from obscure pamphlets of the nineteenth century to books for children published in the last decade. I was just about to head to the stacks to shelve a handful of freshly cataloged books when I thought I ought to share a handful of these items with the world.
Archive for the ‘Children’s books’ Category
Elmer, Arthur and Walter Nelson lived in the small town of Goshen, New Hampshire, in the late 19th century. They used incredible imagination to make the most of their rural home by creating a remarkably detailed imaginary world right in their own backyard. They left behind wonderful drawings, imagined periodicals, maps and stories chronicling their own adventures and the adventures of their characters. So if you are ready to get outside for your own adventure, even if you go no farther than your own backyard, the Nelson brothers could serve as able guides. They will have you planting seeds, using new tools, and pulling boats and bicycles from the garage in no time at all. Amherst College recently acquired the Nelson Brothers Collection and it is now available for viewing online, so take a look and get inspired for some springtime adventure of your own.
We’ve been spending lots of time these last few weeks oohing and aahing over an unusual new collection – so I thought I’d share it with you!
These tiny books, magazines and newspapers were created by the brothers Elmer, Arthur and Walter Nelson in the early 1890s, when the boys ranged in age from 10 to 20 and lived on a farm in Goshen, New Hampshire with their parents and much younger brother. A few of the items seem related to their real identities (the gorgeous Nelson Bros. Seed Catalog, for instance) but the majority of them compose a literary corpus for an imaginary world created by the brothers. They wrote and illustrated geographies, histories, biographies, novels, magazines, newspapers, even a bank deposit book.
One evening recently, while I was reading Little House in the Big Woods to my six year old, he asked what a catechism is (I believe some small children had just been forced to spend all Sunday reading one). I realized that I didn’t quite know. Our friend the internet quickly clarified that catechisms are books explaining core doctrine in question and answer format, generally religious and intended to be memorized.
Things might have stopped there, except that the next day, while immersed in some nineteenth century book at the bunker, I ran across Talcott Williams’ (class of 1873) catechism and got curious about this genre that was once so ubiquitous.
Amherst College is probably not the first place that springs to mind when one is looking for children’s literature of the nineteenth century, but it is actually an area of great strength in the Archives & Special Collections. While we can hardly compete with the nearby American Antiquarian Society’s holdings in this field, we have substantial holdings to support a variety of research projects. We have extensive holdings of one of the most prolific publishers of children’s books in the 19th century — Samuel Goodrich — and an assortment books for children published in nearby Greenfield and Northampton.