On this day in history : 22nd March 1744 – The first book of English nursery rhymes, called ‘Tommy Thumb’s Song Book’ is published – featuring many rhymes that are still well-known today….

The full title of the book was actually ~ ‘Tommy Thumb’s Song Book for all little Masters and Misses; to be sung to them by their Nurses ’till they can sing themselves…. By Nurse Lovechild’….

The book was published by Mary Cooper of London. She was the widow of publisher Thomas Cooper – and after his death she continued the business…. A few weeks after the book was published a sequel followed – ‘Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book’….

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The first page of ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ – from an 1815 edition

No copy of the first volume remains – but a copy of the second is held at the British Library….for years it was thought to be the only one in existence…. However, in 2001 another copy surfaced – it sold for £45,000….

The book contains forty nursery rhymes, many of which we still teach to our children today….

‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’, ‘Little Tommy Tucker’, ‘Who Killed Cock Robin’….img_2608

‘Hickory Dickory Dock’, ‘Little Robin Redbreast’, ‘Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross’….

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‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’, ‘Boys and Girls Come Out to Play’, ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’….

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‘Ladybird Ladybird’, ‘Mary Mary Quite Contrary’, ‘Oranges and Lemons’….

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Internet Archive Book Images via flickr

Such lovely childhood memories…. Ironically, the engraver who did the illustrations for Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book, was one George Bickham Jnr….who was sued by the government of the time for selling pornographic prints….

One thought on “On this day in history….22nd March 1744

  1. Hi Hazel,

    This is a fascinating post. I had no idea that children’s books were published as long ago as 1744! Do you know what proportion of children growing up in the mid-18th century were able to read? Were books like this designed for children to read themselves or was the idea that mums would read them to their children (perhaps at bedtime)?

    Charlotte

    Like

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