The Lilliputian Magazine


The Lilliputian Magazine was the first periodical to be published specifically for children. It takes its name from the six-inch-high citizens of Lilliput, invented by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels (1726). John Newbery, the pioneering publisher of children’s books, initially published the magazine in monthly instalments costing three pence. The first issue was published in February 1751. Newbery probably planned for the magazine to run indefinitely, but only three issues were ever produced. No copies of the individual magazines survive, but the three were re-issued as a single volume in 1752 and several times thereafter. (There is some doubt as to whether or not the third issue ever appeared on its own.) The author of the Magazine is unknown. It was probably a joint effort, possibly including sections written by John Newbery himself and almost certainly some material from Newbery’s son-in-law, the poet Christopher Smart.

The Magazine contains a surprisingly broad range of material: straightforward moral lessons, short narratives, fables, dances, songs, hymns, epigrams, jests and riddles, all packaged in a child-friendly and attractive way, featuring a mix of engravings and woodcuts. The proceedings of the ‘Lilliputian Society’, purported to have been founded in 1750 by Master Meanwell to produce the magazine, are also included, along with several of their debates and resolutions (against cruelty to animals for instance). There are even some heavily politicised fictional travel narratives, written rather in the style of Gulliver’s Travels: ‘A Narrative of a Voyage to the Island of Angelica’ for instance, or ‘The History of Little Polly Meanwell. Who was afterwards the Queen of Petula’. These dispatch a series of child heroes to fictional utopias said to exist in distant parts of the globe. Other extracts seen here include the story of Master Tommy Trusty who rescues vain Miss Biddy Johnson from murderous thieves and reforms her into a dutiful and charitable girl. It is a novel in miniature: dissimilar only in length, and in the youth of its protagonists, from the kind of fiction being produced at the same time by writers like Samuel Richardson and Henry and Sarah Fielding.

Full title:
The Lilliputian magazine: or, The young gentleman & lady's golden library, being an attempt to mend the world ... & to establish the plainness, simplicity, virtue & wisdom of the golden age, etc.
estimated 1752, London
Book / Children's book / Illustration / Image
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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