Sunday School Books: Shaping the Values of Youth in Nineteenth-Century America


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About This Collection

Sunday School Books: Shaping the Values of Youth in Nineteenth-Century America presents page images and transcribed text for 170 books that document the culture of religious instruction of youth in America during the antebellum era. The titles are drawn from the Russel B. Nye Popular Culture Collection at the Michigan State University Libraries and the Clarke Historical Library of Central Michigan University. The materials represent a number of religious denominations including Methodists, Baptists, and Mormons, among others. Between 1800 and 1880 the nation was flooded with streams of tracts, pamphlets, hymnbooks, devotional books, journals, magazines, and newspapers. By 1830, the American Tract Society (equipped with a steam-driven press) was producing over six million tracts per year. The titles selected reveal a concerted effort to negotiate the tension between religion and culture, scripture and social reality, childhood and adulthood. In addition to matters of religious and moral development, the texts address a wide range of the era's concerns such as poverty and charity, child labor and orphans, slavery and abolition, child-rearing, social conduct, and gender expectations, as well as such topics as missionary travel, natural history, and animal welfare. This collection offers readers a direct experience of the juvenile fiction of the early to middle decades of the nineteenth century. Although aimed at children, books like these were also widely read by adults.

As part of the MSU Libraries' presentation of this collection, the selected books have been categorized by topic.

Michigan State University Libraries has collected rare and special books since its inception in the mid 19th century. Over the years, the number of rare book holdings increased with the addition of outstanding collections in apiculture, cookery, and veterinary medicine. In 1962, the library established a Special Collections Division. The division has grown most significantly in the last decade with holdings now totalling more than 250,000, including a number of nationally known collections.

The Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University was founded in 1954 through a gift from Dr. Norman E. Clarke, Sr. to his alma mater. Dr. Clarke was a book collector of unusual insight and breadth. His collection was created, in his own words, to "portray the lives, the thoughts, and the culture of the pioneer people to whom we owe so much." The institution bearing Dr. Clarke's name has become one of Michigan's leading research libraries.

The digitization and presentation of these materials by the Michigan State University Libraries* was supported by an award from the Library of Congress/Ameritech National Digital Library Competition.

The source materials for this collection are housed at Michigan State University Library and Central Michigan University. The digital reproductions of the books are also mounted at Michigan State University. Please contact the Digital and Multimedia Center at Michigan State University with any questions or information about the original materials or requests for reproductions.