The rare book collection includes significant holdings in children's literature, from early children's literature through contemporary pop-up books. The collections are a valuable research to those who study childhood, education, and literature. Students of book history and its related specializations -- design, illustration, the interplay of text and image -- also find the collection a valuable resource.
St. Louis educator, reading specialist, and long-time collector of children's books Henrietta Maizner Hochschild donated a choice selection from her library -- more than 1,000 books, magazines, and ephemeral pieces documenting the evolution of children's literature -- to Washington University in the 1980s and '90s. The collection is used by researchers interested in the influence that fairy tales, fantasy, and other popular works have had on the literary, social, and moral development of writers and artists who read these books as children.
In September 2004, Constance and Monroe Levy made a gift to the University to be used by the Department of Special Collections to purchase children's books and, in particular, to support the teaching of Dr. Gerald Early, the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters and director of the Center for the Humanities. When Dr. Early expressed a desire to acquire multiple editions of a single influential children's book used in his courses -- for example, The Story of Little Black Sambo -- we purchased a wide-ranging collection of nearly 300 primary sources (books and realia) that document this text, its publishing and illustration history, and its treatment in the mass market.