John Newbery

John Newbery

John Newbery (baptized 9 July 1713 – 22 December 1767) was a British publisher of books who first made children's literature a sustainable and profitable part of the literary market. He also supported and published the works of Christopher Smart, Oliver Goldsmith and Samuel Johnson. In honor of his achievements in children's publishing, the Newbery Medal was named after him.

Early life

Newbery was born in 1713 to a Berkshire farmer in Waltham St Lawrence. He was apprenticed to a local printer at the age of sixteen. In 1737 his master, William Carnan, died and left the business to him and Charles Carnan, William's brother. Two years later, he married William Carnan's widow, Mary. [Rose, 216.]

Publishing career

By 1740 he had started publishing books in Reading, Berkshire; his first two publications were an edition of Richard Allestree's "The Whole Duty of Man" and "Miscellaneous Works Serious and Humerous [sic] In Verse and Prose". In 1743, Newbery left Reading, putting his stepson John Carnan in charge of his business there, and established a shop in London, first at the Bible and Crown near Devereux Court and then at the Bible and Sun at 65 St. Paul's Churchyard. The first book he published there was "A Little Pretty Pocket-Book" in 1744. [Rose, 217.] This book has sometimes been called the "first children's book;" while other children's books by Thomas Boreman and Thomas and Mary Cooper had been published previously, "A Little Pretty Pocket-Book" is the first in Newbery's successful line of children's books. It already contains all of the hallmarks of a Newbery book. In developing his particular brand of children's literature, Newbery borrowed techniques from other publishers, such as binding his books in Dutch floral paper and advertising his other products and books within the stories he wrote or commissioned. [Rose, 218.] Newbery's firm published children's stories, ABC books, children's novels and children's magazines; his children's books constituted about one-fifth of the five hundred books his published. [Rose, 216.]

Newbery, it seems, both hired authors to write his books and wrote himself. Scholars have speculated that Oliver GoldsmithFact|date=June 2007 or Giles and Griffith Jones [Rose, 219.] wrote one of Newbery's best-selling stories, "The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes". This was Newbery's most popular book, going through 29 editions between 1765 and 1800. [Rose, 219.]

Newbery also published a series of books written by "Tom Telescope" that were wildly popular, going through seven editions between 1761 and 1787 alone. [Rose, 219.] These were based on the emerging science of the day and consisted of a series of lectures given by a boy, Tom Telescope. The most famous is entitled "The Newtonian System of Philosophy Adapted to the Capacities of Young Gentlemen and Ladies".

Newbery accrued most of his fortune from his patent and sales of Dr. James's Fever Powder, a medicine which claimed to cure the gout, rheumatism, scrofula, scurvy, leprosy, and distemper in cattle. [Rose, 216.] This product became successful due in part to Newbery's advertisements for it in his literature. In "Goody Two-Shoes", the heroine's father dies because he was "seized with a violent fever in a place where Dr. James Fever Powder was not to be had." [Qtd. in Rose, 219.]

Newbery themes

Inspired by John Locke's very successful "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", Newbery adopted the motto "Deluctando monemus" (Instruction through Delight). Locke had written that "children may be cozened into a knowledge of the letters; be taught to read, without perceiving it to be anything but a sport, and play themselves into that which others are whipped for." He also suggested that picture books be created for children. Locke also argued that children should be considered "reasoning beings." Newbery acted upon these suggestions. He also made his books relative cheap, charging only sixpence for "A Little Pretty Pocket-Book", eightpence with a ball or pincushion. [Rose, 217.] The book was a hodge-podge of information and games, including riddles and advice on a proper diet, but its primary message was "learn your lessons . . . and one day you will ride in a coach and six." [Rose, 219.] "In Newbery's universe work is always rewarded and altruism pays dividends as reliably as Isaac Newton's laws of motion." [Rose, 219.]

Newbery's tales seem painfully didactic today, but were popular and enjoyed by children of the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Most of his stories concern a virtuous orphan who works hard (or is "industrious"), and therefore eventually becomes prosperous. They draw the world as a meritocracy where a child rises or falls on his or her character. Furthermore, many of the stories tell the life of the orphan from childhood to adulthood to illustrate rewards and punishments associated with "good" and "bad" behavior.


His son Francis, his nephew Francis and Francis' wife Elizabeth and his grandson Francis Power continued the business after his death.

In 1922, the Newbery Medal was created in honor of him; it is awarded each year to the best children's book published in the United States.

Bestselling Newbery books

According to the New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature (NCBEL 2.120), Newbery "wrote, wholly or partly" and "edited or materially influenced" the following works:

* [ "Mother Goose's Melody" (1791) (A.H. Bullen's 1904 facsimile)] by John Newbery, Isaiah Thomas, and William Henry Whitmore
*"A Little Pretty Pocket-Book" (1744) by M. F. Thwaite and John Newbery
*"The Newtonian System of Philosophy" (1761) by Tom Telescope, John Newbery, and Oliver Goldsmith
*"The Renowned History of Giles Gingerbread" (1764)
*"The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes" (1765) by John Newbery (perhaps written with Oliver Goldsmith)
* "The Entertaining History of Tommy Gingerbread a Little Boy who Lived Upon Learning" by John Newbery



*Buck. "The Motives of Puffing: John Newbery's Advertisements." "Studies in Bibliography" 30 (1977): 196–210.

*Darton, F. J. Harvey. "Children's Books in England". 3rd ed. Rev. Brian Alderson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

*Grey, Jill e. "The Lilliputian Magazine — A Pioneering Periodical?" "Journal of Librarianship" 2 (1970): 107–115.

*Jackson, Mary V. "Engines of Instruction, Mischief, and Mag!c: Children’s Literature in England from Its Beginnings to 1839". Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989.

*Maxted, Ian. " [ John Newbery] ." "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Retrieved on 22 April 2007.

*Noblett, William. "John Newbery: Publisher Extraordinary." "History Today" 22 (1972): 265–271.

*Roscoe, S. "John Newbery and His Successors 1740-1814: A Bibliography." Wormley: Five Owls Press Ltd., 1973.

*Rose, Jonathan. "John Newbery." "The British Literary Book Trade, 1700–1820". Eds. J. K. Bracken and J. Silver. "Dictionary of Literary Biography". Vol. 154. 1995.

*Townsend, John Rowe. "John Newbery and His Books: Trade and Plumb-cake for ever, huzza!" Metuchen, N.J. : Scarecrow Press, 1994.

*Welsh, Charles. "A Bookseller of the Last Century, being Some Account of the Life of John Newbery". First published in 1885. Clifton: Augustus M. Kelley, 1972. ISBN 0678008833.

External links

* [ A.H. Bullen's 1904 facsimile of Newbery's 1791 edition of "Mother Goose's Melody"]
* [ John Newbery one of the Great People of Reading]
* [ Pirated US edition of "A Little Pretty Pocket-Book"]
* [ One version of "The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes" with an introductory essay at the Hockliffe Collection]
* [ One version of "Giles Gingerbread" with an introductory essay at the Hockliffe Collection]

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