The most prominent publisher of books for children in the 18th century was John Newbery, who was based at ‘the sign of the Bible and Sun’ in St Paul’s Church-Yard, London. A Little Pretty POCKET-BOOK, Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy, and Pretty Miss Polly, first published in 1744, is generally considered to be the first book specifically directed at children. It was originally sold with free gifts, a ball for a boy and a pincushion for a girl. Although none of these gifts survives, they were apparently black on one side, and red on the other, and good deeds were to be marked by a pin stuck on the red side, and bad ones by a pin in the black. As the title page states, the toys were intended to ‘infallibly make Tommy a good boy, and Polly a good girl’.
This is the earliest surviving edition, the tenth, dated 1760.
There is a difference in the style of illustration between the frontispiece and the rest of the book’s illustrations. The scene of Newbery’s frontispiece engraving is set indoors, in the drawing room of a comfortable middle or upper class home. The woman is reading from a book, and while doing so raises her hand in an instructional manner. The two children are dressed like young adults. The other images are woodcuts, cruder and more vigorous, and mostly set outdoors.
The book is also noteworthy for containing the first documented use of the word ‘baseball’.