Peering inside the pages of a rare, old book is any bibliophile’s dream come true. While such a treat was once reserved for seasoned collectors and expert conservators, recent digitization projects have made these antique titles accessible to all kinds of audiences—including the youngest generation of readers.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Children’s Book Week, the Library of Congress has added a treasure trove of 70 rare children’s books to its ever-growing online archive. Rendered as a series of high-quality scans, each digitized book lets you appreciate the original illustrations and classic typography typical of books before 1924.
In order to encourage parents and children to peruse these books together, the Library of Congress has organized this collection into three themes relevant to modern-day readers: Learning to Read, Reading to Learn, and Reading for Fun. The first group promotes literacy with alphabet books like A apple pie and an all-inclusive Illustrated Primer. The second comprises learning materials, like The History of Insects. And the third section aims to “nourish the imagination” through fairytales and fiction, including The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by the beloved Beatrix Potter.
On top of offering the lessons and leisure originally intended by their authors, these old books can also contextualize history and open dialogues about diversity, representation, and other important, forward-thinking ideas. Lee Ann Potter, the director of the learning and innovation office at the Library of Congress told The New York Times, “We’re celebrating the fact that these books provide us with the opportunity to have conversations about what is appropriate or inappropriate, that they help us understand a different time.”