Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tom Thumb's Pretty Song Book

Nursery rhymes have been around far longer than we've had television personalities to sing them; the first Mother Goose rhyme book may have appeared as early as 1719 (though the exact date is disputed, there are references to Mother Goose by the mid-eighteenth century). What is known is that a little book was published in London in 1744 entitled Tom Thumb's Pretty Song Book, Vol. II. No trace of Volume I, but not to worry--many subsequent volumes in the eighteenth century were not additions but rather new editions. This makes searching the archives quite interesting at times, not knowing if a new volume is really new material, or just a new printing.

Regardless. Despite what we hear about children in the eighteenth century being expected to be little adults, there was literature developped and printed just for them, and the ideas were often similar to today's kids' books--simple rhymes, alphabet practice, and fairy stories. Of course, the titles were often less appealing, and have that austerity we've abandoned when it comes to kid lit. Like the one above: Tom Thumb's Play Book: To Teach Children their Letters as soon as they have learned to speak, being a New and pleasant Method to allure Little Ones into the first Principles of Learning. Yeah.

In the Pretty Song Book, there are many familiar rhymes, including "Baa Baa Black Sheep," "Sing a Song of Sixpence," and "Hickere, Dickere Dock" (now spelled Hickory Dickory, but the same rhyme).

Some are less familiar.

Like this gem:

Piss a Bed,
Piss a Bed,
Barley Butt,
Your Bum is so heavy,
You can't get up.


I doubt we'd see that one in preschool singalongs today.

6 comments:

Lua said...

Haha love that little song :)
I had no idea about nursery rhymes and this books- that’s what I love about your blog! I get to learn all this interesting things about history!

Audra said...

Okay, this -- Tom Thumb's Play Book: To Teach Children their Letters as soon as they have learned to speak, being a New and pleasant Method to allure Little Ones into the first Principles of Learning. -- about had me dying. I nearly choked on my coffee!

sharmon said...

Loved this snippet of history. Esp. that last little charmer. Hmmm, wonder if they ever sung it in church...

Rowenna said...

Thanks, Lua!

Audra--I know--we have funny long titles in kids' books today like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Day. But they're meant to be funny--you know this wasn't which makes it all the better!

Sharmon--LOL! I'd love to teach this to a Sunday School class...

Hema P. said...

That's a fun rhyme. Guess the austerity in language only went as far as the title, which was for everyone to see? ;-)

I, too, love researching history and learning little snippets about how people lived way back then...

Rowenna said...

Hema--it is a funny contrast between the title and that hilarious rhyme, isn't it?