Once upon a time, fairy tales were not for children. From a bloodthirsty birth in a sinister European forest, to benign bedtime tales where “Children with their Milk
are fed with the Tales of Witches, Hobgoblins, Prophecies and Miracles” this exhibition traces the development of children’s literature through the generations.
A 16th century volume on display contains some of the earliest surviving written versions of fairy tales, although many are considerably older. Also featured is an 18th century volume by Charles Perrault containing his classic tales ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, which concealed life lessons within spellbinding stories.
A century later, Victorian morality stories and cautionary tales dispensed with wolves and witches. Now long-forgotten, they reflect a world of rigid religious, class and gender roles for children. Children’s books became truly beautiful in the 19th century when illustrators charmed readers with striking and evocative drawings that are still popular today.
Using original archives and rare books from Manuscripts & Special Collections, From Rags to Witches explores a range of children’s literature, from the beloved to the forgotten tales that never got a happily ever after.
The exhibition has been curated by staff from Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham.