Thomas Nelson & Sons and children’s book publishing, 1850-1918
Hagen, Anne Marie
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This thesis examines the publisher Thomas Nelson’s contribution to the juvenile publishing field in Britain in the period between 1850-1918, and studies Nelson’s development into a specialised publisher of books for children in the same period. The thesis examines the ways in which the children’s book and the juvenile publishing field developed through negotiating the demands of religious and secular education, arguing that it was through the children’s list that Nelson transitioned into a modern educational publisher. The thesis challenges assumptions that the history of children’s books is one from reading for instruction to reading solely for pleasure, thus also expanding our understanding of the types of books which were published in the “Golden Age” of children’s books. Finally, in uncovering the influence of the Nelson firm, the thesis reassesses the role of Scottish companies in British juvenile publishing. The research builds on three types of data: first and foremost information comes from the “Papers of Thomas Nelson & Sons”, a collection of the firm’s business and editorial papers. To allow comparisons with the larger publishing field and with specific publishers, data were also gathered from contemporary trade, professional, government and literary publications. Finally, the material form of selected Nelson children’s books is analysed. In chapter one, the impact that Nelson’s origin as a publisher with evangelical sympathies had on text selection and editorial methods is analysed. The reasons for the adventure tale’s dominant position on the Nelson list is the focus of chapter two, which analyses the editorial treatment of this genre and the diverse opportunities this genre afforded Nelson. Chapter three analyses the development of Nelson series, particularly the implications such diversification schemes had for the demarcations between juvenile and popular fiction. Chapter four examines the educational gift book and its relationship with Nelson’s schoolbooks, and the ways in which the conservatism and innovation of the early twentieth-century print market affected the composition of the children’s book list. The thesis concludes with a comparison of Nelson books from either end of the period studied, and uses the 1921 Newbolt Report on “The Teaching of English” to reflect on Nelson’s position in the publishing field.