The Library has children’s books published between the 16th and 21st century, reflecting patterns of childhood reading over five hundred years.
The earliest children’s book held is The Scholemaster by Roger Ascham, former schoolmaster to the young Queen Elizabeth I, and subsequently published under her patronage in 1571. This book and other readers and primers reflect the instructional nature of the earliest books for children.
The Library holds a wide collection of Lewis Carroll's Alice books, some of which are temporarily on display in the Cowen Gallery. The Alice books marked a shift away from didacticism to imaginative irreverence in children's fiction, and continue to inspire literal, radical and subversive interpretation.
Our children's book collection shows the expansion over time from the didactic beginnings of children’s literature to works for children’s entertainment such as novels, illustrated fiction, picture books, graphic novels, poetry and traditional stories.
The Library has more than 100,000 children’s books from Australia and overseas, and this collection grows by approximately 2500 books – antiquarian and contemporary – each year.