Our Collection

Our Historical Collection of Rare Children's Books

The research collection of the Cotsen Children's Library is a major historical collection of rare illustrated children's books, manuscripts, original artwork, prints, and educational toys from the 15th century to the present day in over thirty languages. The collection has important holdings of materials in the English, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Latin, and Russian languages.

Among Our Treasures

Among the collection's treasures are an early-Coptic Christian schoolbook; medieval manuscripts; incunables; two scrapbooks assembled by Hans Christian Andersen; drawings by Edward Lear, K. F. E. Freyhold, and Samuil Marshak; many of Beatrix Potter's famous picture letters; early editions of the fairy tales of Madame d'Aulnoy, Charles Perrault, and the brothers Grimm; one of the largest collections of children's books published by John Newbery and his successors; Soviet Constructivist children's books; American dime novels; moveable books; jigsaw puzzles; and educational playing cards.

Advice for Researchers

Cotsen materials do not circulate but can be consulted in the Reading Room of the Department of Special Collections, which is located inside Firestone Library. The collection's holdings can be searched in the Princeton online catalogue and through the Cotsen Children's Library Research Guide. Important highlights from the collection have also been digitized and are available online at the Princeton University Digital Library. Cotsen's digitized collections include highlights from our Chinese material, Japanese prints and drawings, McLoughlin Publisher's material, and Soviet era children's books.

Princeton University Library welcomes all researchers to its special collections reading rooms. Researchers are required to create an account for reading room access and to submit online requests to consult special collections material. 

Researchers are welcome to contact the Curator in advance of their visit with questions about the collection or to schedule assistance with items that are not yet catalogued. Fellowships to use the collection's resources may be applied for through the Department of Special Collections' short-term library research grants

For collections highlights, curatorial events, exhibitions, and more, check out the curatorial blog