Include a Visit to the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books in Your Summer Plans

July 13, 2018 | Eila

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In 1934 British librarian Edgar Osborne visited the Toronto Public Library (TPL) and was quite impressed with the range and quality of children’s services offered by TPL’s Boys and Girls House Branch run by Lillian H. Smith, TPL’s first head of Children’s Services. He was so impressed that in 1949 he decided to donate his collection of 2,000 or so rare children’s books to TPL to as a children’s historic literature collection.

Osborne Griffin

Since 1949 the Osborne Collection has grown to over 80,000 books! The collection is now broken down into three parts: the Osborne Collection of books published to the end of 1910; the Lillian H. Smith Collection of notable modern titles; and the Canadiana Collection of materials written, published, or substantially related to Canada.

Osborne Pop Up Book

So what exactly can be found in the Osborne Collection? There is so much to discover and enjoy! You can find early and first editions of literary classics and modern popular culture tomes alike. The oldest artifacts in the collection include cuneiform tablets dating from 2,000 BCE. And even though books are the most common thing on their shelves, the collection also holds movables and miniatures. Here are some standout items you can find in the Osborne Collection:

  • Florence Nightingale's childhood library
  • the manuscript for the first Canadian picture book, An Illustrated Comic Alphabet (1859)
  • a fourteenth-century manuscript of Aesop's fables
  • early and modern movable books

Osborne Reading Room

Every few months the Osborne Collection opens a new exhibit to the public that features some of its most interesting items that don’t often see the public eye. Featured this summer, until September 1, is Ready, Set, Go!: Play and Sports in Children's Books. This exhibit explores the topic of sports and games in children's literature. It features material as old as 1760 and as new as 2016, all revolving around this interesting theme. Read more about future exhibits and events, including lectures and speakers, being held by the Osborne Collection.

The Bumper Book for Girls

The Osborne Collection is located on the 4th Floor of the Lillian H. Smith Branch. You can explore the Osborne Collection and its exhibits anytime the Osborne Collection is open during the following times:

  • Monday to Friday: 10-6 pm
  • Saturday: 9-5:00 pm