About Us

Project 1. Charlotte Appel (assoc. professor): Children’s books as media and commodities between pedagogical visions, business strategies, and everyday uses c. 1790-1850

This sub-project investigates what books were available for children on the book market, and how different agents interacted with each other and their ‘products’ in order to target children as consumers of books. Two research questions will be pursued:

  • A) What books were produced for and disseminated to children between 1790 and 1850, and what changes and continuities can be identified with regard to genre, formats, illustrations, languages, and topics, as well as intended settings and audiences (for home or school or both? boys or girls? age groups?). The hypothesis is that the market not only expanded, but also became increasingly differentiated. Quantitative analyses of data from national bibliographical sources will be combined with local case studies, based on inventories etc. from booksellers, lending libraries, schools and private collections, with special attention to the coexistence of old and new books. This will be essential in order to trace encounters between children and books in specific social settings.
  • B) How did different actors on the new market for children’s books interact, and which agendas and strategies did they pursue when adapting, composing, and marketing books for children? How were European ‘models’ transformed or substituted? The hypothesis is that the tendency to adapt and develop children’s books with particular reference to the Danish market became more outspoken, following stronger national currents. A micro-historical approach will be taken by studying individual publishers, who specialized in children’s books, such as Chr. Steen, and by selecting a limited, but varied number of titles, which can be followed through circuits and circulations from the publisher’s premises, to the teacher’s desk, the parent’s book shelf, and the child’s pocket. Different editions (and extant copies) of popular books such as H.J. Campe’s Robinson der Jüngere, illustrated ABCs, and translated collections of fairy tales by e.g. Perrault and Löhr (preceding H.C. Andersen) will be among the selected examples. Special focus will be on experiments with new commodities, such as books with attached toys.

Project 2: Nina Christensen (assoc. professor): Children’s books at play. Children’s interaction with books within the private household c. 1790-1850

This sub-project analyses the characteristics of children’s books used in private households and the ways in which books were brought into play among boys and girls, friends, relatives, and employees. Thereby it is the intention to capture the agency of individual children in their encounters with books. Two central questions are: 

  • A) To which experiences, activities, and interactions did specific children’s books appeal? It is the hypothesis that children’s books were moulded by different functions, as presents, objects to learn from, starting points for play, entertainment, and performance, and that children’s books therefore reflect a variety of reading practices, related to gender, age groups, and social setting. The project will investigate the ways in which texts, images, and the book as a physical object represent different functions, relations and reading experiences. This will be done through analyses of paratexts (including titles and forewords), materiality (including objects to play with), form (appealing to dialogue, drama, song), and contents of specific genres (moral tales, fairy tales, informative texts). Special attention will be given to the ways in which children are addressed as active agents in activities related to reading.
  • B) What characterized individual children’s wishes, demands, and experiences in relation to the use of books? It is a hypothesis that what children read and enjoyed was not always identical with the literature targeted at them, and that children’s actual interaction with books often differed from the intentions of adults. By selecting cases with rich source materials, allowing us to hear the “tiny voices” of children and capture their agency in practice (e.g. in the diary of 10-year old Severin Veiersøe, born 1814, son of a small-holder, and in letters by the young Ida Thiele, born 1830, to her father, a Copenhagen author), it will be investigated what individual children did with their books, what they learned and experienced from them – and the ways in which children could influence what books they encountered (e.g. by saving up, making wishes, borrowing, or stealing).

Project 3. Karoline Baden Staffensen (Ph.D. student): Educating readers and future citizens. The production and uses of books for school children, with special emphasis on the development of the reader (“læsebogen”) as a new genre, c. 1790-1850

This sub-project studies the role of schools as an important setting for encounters between children and books. This was where most children learned to read and found out what books looked like; where teachers, pastors, and other experts developed new books for instruction (reflecting pedagogical and ideological positions), and where businesses found an expanding market following new school reforms. Until the 1790s, most school children encountered only the ABC, the Catechism, the Gospel book, and an exposition of the catechism, and this influenced their habits and expectations with regard to reading (Appel 2012). However, this changed when so-called ‘readers’ were introduced, containing new texts and topics, such as moral stories from the everyday lives of children and texts on (national) history. Such books were intended as instruments in the formation of religious and national identities (Anderson 1983, Korsgaard 2004, Weikle-Mills 2013), and it is our hypothesis that they also paved the way for approaches to reading and to books (as media and commodities) among children. Two cardinal questions will be investigated:

  •  A) What characterized Danish school books, particularly ‘readers’ for young children with regard to genre and contents, as well as the materiality of the books (from translations of F.E. von Rochow, Der Kinderfreund, 1776, to extended versions of P. Hjort, Den danske Børneven, 1839)? The authors, translators, and publishers and their European models of inspiration will be identified in order to explain different ideological and commercial projects and positions on the market for school books. 
  • B) In which ways were books intended to be used in schools, and how were they used in practice by teachers and children? Information in prefaces, introductions, and pedagogical manuals will be combined with findings in school protocols, inventories, and visitation reports, and in diaries and other sources that bear witness to the experiences of individual teachers and pupils. Special attention will be paid to agents active in both teaching and publishing, such as Morten Hallager and Frederik Frølund, and to children, who have left accounts of school experiences.