Artifacts of Childhood: 700 Years of Children’s Books
Seven centuries of children’s books on display in Chicago
The Newberry Library, located in the Near North Side neighborhood of the city, continues through mid-January an exhibition of children’s books that features such treasures as the first illustrated edition of Aesop’s Fables(1485) and the first edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865).
The exhibition, Artifacts of Childhood: 700 Years of Children’s Books, draws from the library’s collection of thousands of children’s books in more than 100 languages, from the 15th century to the present.
The show revolves around six themes, “the books as evidence of the various aspects of what children do and how they learn,” says Paul Gehl, co-curator with Jenny Schwartzberg of the exhibition.
On each Thursday evening in December and January until the show ends, Gehl and Schwartzberg will lead a 45-minute gallery walk of the exhibition. Visitors will see examples of the child as learner, the child as a virtuous individual and the child as consumer. Another section gathers fantasy and fiction books written for children. Two other sections are more child-centered: the child at play, where the book is a toy; and the child as author, where the books actually were — or pretended to be — written by the children themselves.
“If you look at the overall theme, it goes from educational books, school books, where it is completely top down — it’s adults speaking to children — then at the very end, it’s about children speaking back to adults in some form,” says Gehl. “You literally walk through the show in a circle.”