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"This is a uniquely important collection of historical children's books...."

--Charles, Prince of Wales

In 1944, researchers Peter and Iona Opie began a book collection to augment their now-famous studies in children's literature and lore. (The most famous of their works, perhaps, is The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book.) Even the most prestigious research centers in England lacked a comprehensive collection.

Over the next 40 years, the collection grew to an astonishing 20,000 titles. Upon Peter's sudden death in 1982, Iona began to seek a permanent home for the books. A national appeal led by Prince Charles successfully raised the necessary £500,000, half the collection's appraised value, for purchase by the Bodleian Library in Oxford. (Mrs. Opie donated half the value.)

Now UMI® brings The Opie Collection of Children's Literature on microfiche to scholars everywhere. Organized into units by book type, the collection is particularly valuable to students of literature, history, developmental psychology, linguistics, sociology, early childhood education, and related disciplines. Bibliographic access is provided for each unit, and a cumulative index is planned upon completion of the collection.

The collection preserves nearly 1,100 chapbooks, battledores (two or three-page primers), and card-covered toy books; 4,000 comics, children's magazines, and penny dreadfuls (Victorian serials for children); and 12,000 bound volumes of children's stories and nursery rhymes, books on games and amusements, picture books, movable books, reversible books, rag books, miniatures, and other items.

Some 800 titles included were published before 1800. Among the many rare titles included are:


  • The Arabian Nights Entertainment (1706)
  • a c.1711 edition of The History of Jack and the Giants, the earliest extant printing of this classic fairy tale
  • the first abridged edition of Robinson Crusoe (published 20 years earlier than the copy owned by The British Library)
  • William Ronksley's The Child's Week's-Work (1712), perhaps the earliest example of "play-way" teaching methods for reading
  • copies of the privately printed first editions of Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1901) and The Tailor of Gloucester (1902)
  • an early edition of The Wind in the Willows (1908) inscribed by author Kenneth Graham for his son Alastair

This internationally acclaimed resource is one of the most prestigious collections of its kind.

The collection is available in 59 units; each unit can be sold separately. The units cover the following topics:

  • Biography and History (before 1850): Units 10, 11, 46
  • Biography and History (after 1850): Units 26, 40, 41, 46
  • Books of Instruction (before 1850): Units 7, 8, 45
  • Books of Instruction (after 1850): Units 23, 42, 45
  • Drama: Unit 44
  • Fables, Legends and Fairy Tales: Units 9, 13, 14, 15, 40, 44
  • Foreign Languages: Units 47-50
  • Games and Pastimes (before 1850): Units 17, 46
  • Games and Pastimes (after 1850): Units 27-29, 46
  • Hornbooks, Cabinets, etc.: Unit 45
  • Keepsakes, Miscellanies, Almanacs and Birthday Books (after 1850): Units 27, 44
  • Moveables (before 1850): Unit 39
  • Moveables (after 1850): Unit 46
  • Music: Unit 45
  • Natural Science (before 1850): Units 11-12, 46
  • Natural Science (after 1850): Units 24-25, 46
  • Nursery Rhymes: Units 18-19, 42, 46
  • Periodicals and Annuals: Units 51-59
  • Poetry and Verse (before 1850): Units 17-18, 43
  • Poetry and Verse (after 1850): Units 40-43
  • Primers and Alphabets (before 1850): Units 15, 44
  • Primers and Alphabets (after 1850): Units 25, 44
  • Publishers’ Catalogs: Unit 45
  • Reference and Bibliographies: Units 40-41, 47-50
  • Religious Instruction (before 1850): Units 21-23, 43
  • Religious Instruction (after 1850): Unit 43
  • Stories (before 1850): Units 1-7, 45
  • Stories (after 1850): Units 29-38, 42, 45, 56-59
  • Toy Books: Units 20-21, 46
  • Travel & Geography (before 1850): Units 10, 16
  • Travel & Geography (after 1850): Units 26-46

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