We hold manuscripts and printed material relating to children’s authors from the UK and Ireland
About the collectionOur extensive collection of children’s literature contains many unique and rare items. Among our manuscript highlights are:
- 'Alice's Adventures Under Ground', the original manuscript of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- manuscripts for The Jungle Book, The Second Jungle Book and the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
- letters from J R R Tolkien to his grandson Michael
- models of Winnie the Pooh and friends by the illustrator E H Shepard, with letters written by Shepard in the guise of Pooh
- part of the original manuscript for The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
- an illustrated ‘nonsense’ manuscript by Edward Lear.
You can find more manuscript material relating to children's literature in the archives of:
Our printed collections contain monographs and periodicals published in the UK and Ireland and acquired by the Library through legal deposit. These have been added to by selective purchase and donation. The range includes:
- one of only two recorded copies of the earliest surviving collections of nursery rhymes, Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book (1744)
- the Henry Mayor Lyon collection of 18th – 19th century children’s books and chapbooks
- a collection of Kipling’s own copies of his works
- the artist Leonard Baskin’s copies of works by Ted Hughes
- an extensive collection of children’s comics and annuals.
What is available online?Our Discovering Literature website includes images of children’s literature from the 18th and 19th centuries. You can also see images of manuscripts and books which featured in our exhibitions Animal Tales and Alice in Wonderland, including a fully-digitised version of Lewis Carroll’s manuscript ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’.
You can find details of all printed materials in the Library’s online catalogue Explore the British Library. Many 19th-century children’s books from our collections have been digitised and can be accessed directly from this catalogue. Fuller descriptions can be found in the English Short Title Catalogue (for items printed before 1801) and The Nineteenth Century.
Thousands of illustrations from the Library's digitised collection of 19th-century children's books have been made freely available under Public Domain Mark on British Library Flickr.
What is available in our Reading Rooms?You can consult printed items in our Reading Rooms by finding and requesting them in Explore the British Library.
You can consult manuscripts and archival material in our Manuscripts Reading Room. Find your items in Explore Archives and Manuscripts and request them via the ‘Request Other Items’ tab. You may need to provide us with a letter of introduction or further information in order to access manuscripts and archives. Use our online catalogue to find out whether access conditions apply.
We also provide onsite access to a wide range of subscription databases, many of which include digitised images of material from the British Library’s collections.These include:
What is available in other organisations?Other major collections of children’s literature in the United Kingdom include:
- the Opie Collection at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
- the Renier and Beatrix Potter Collections at the National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum.
- Literature for children available from the State University Libraries of Florida.
- Alderson, Brian, Sing a Song for Sixpence: the English Picture-Book Tradition and Randolph Caldecott (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press in association with the British Library, 1986)
- Attar, Karen (ed.), Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. 3rd edn (London: Facet, 2016) (entry D4 on pp.139-140)
- Barr, John, Illustrated Children’s Books (London: British Library, 1986).