(This was first written for my History of Youth Literature class. For my first assignment, we had to write about the oldest book we could find in an assignment called Attic Adventures. The title is technically The Stories of Old Daniel, but it’s often shortened to Old Daniel, so I decided it would be okay to use for the letter “O” for A-to-Z.)
The oldest children’s book I found was The Stories of Old Daniel: or, Tales of wonder and delight. Containing narratives of foreign countries and manners, and designed as an introduction to the study of voyages, travels, and history in general by Margaret King Moore (Boston: Munroe and Francis, 1808). It was published during the end of the Enlightenment period of children’s publishing. However, it was part of the Godwins’ Juvenile Library, which aimed to encourage a child’s imagination rather than teach morality, placing it closer to the Victorians in sentiment. The table of contents promised exciting stories like “The Ventriloquist,” “The Unlucky Travellers,” and “The Murderer.” Because the book was so old, it had to be handled very carefully, so I wasn’t able to read the whole thing, but I was able to flip through the pages and figure out that the book was about a well-traveled man called Old Daniel who told stories about his adventures to the boys at a day school. According to the first few pages, the boys wrote his stories down and later presented the book to Old Daniel, so presumably the narrator of the book was one of those boys.
In the Natural History Museum library catalog, Old Daniel had been recorded as being published in 1810 with a question mark after the date, but when I researched it further, I found that the second edition was published in 1810, but the first edition (the one in the collection) had been published in 1808. There was also a third edition published in 1813, and a sequel was published a few years later (WorldCat has it at 1820), showing that the book itself was very popular in its own time. It has since been reprinted a few times and is currently available in an anthology of children’s literature by Irish authors from 1765 to 1808.
The book itself is small and worn, with brittle and torn edges and stains (foxing) on the pages. The cover is a plain brown, with powdery edges (red rot?) that rubbed off when I handled it. It looks old enough to perhaps be the original cover, but the spine has definitely been rebound with library binding. On the title page, there is an inscription that says it had been presented in 1823 to someone named James by his cousin. To the left of the title page is a frontispiece showing scared boys being approached by a dirty-looking traveler, with the caption “An Old Friend with a New Tale.” Interestingly, this frontispiece image was replaced by one showing Old Daniel waving a stick around surrounded by boys listening to his stories in the 2nd edition, and in the 3rd edition, the scene becomes even more genial with his stick resting next to his chair.
 Moore was an Irish noblewoman, Lady Mount Cashell, and Mary Wollstonecraft had been her governess as a child. (http://exhibitions.nypl.org/biblion/outsiders/outsiders/section/godwinsec5)
 Started by William Godwin (Mary Wollstonecraft’s husband until her death) and Mary Jane Godwin (his second wife), it also published The Swiss Family Robinson and Tales from Shakespeare. (http://exhibitions.nypl.org/biblion/outsiders/outsiders/story/storygodwinjuvenile)
This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter O.