By Melissa McMullen, Project Archivist

Children’s books and periodicals are written by adults not only for children, but also for the adults who monitor, buy, edit, distribute, and dispense children’s reading. Therefore, children’s books of all historical periods reflect the fears, biases, timidities, cultural insensitivities, as well as the hopes and positive values, of adults.

Cover page for Puss in Boots

The Miriam Snow Mathes Historical Children's Literature Collection includes upwards of 17,000 children's books and periodicals published in the 19th century and up to 1960. The collection is strong in the literature of the first half of the 20th century, but there is also extensive coverage of the 19th century, the latter half in particular. There is a notable focus on neglected and forgotten works published in the United States, between 1875 and 1960. 

The central purpose of the Mathes Collection is to provide the texts of works that are generally no longer available in children's library collections today, making them available for historical, literary and cultural study and consultation by scholars, students, teachers, librarians and the interested public. The collection serves not only research in history of children’s literature, but also in social and cultural history, publishing history, and art history (illustration and book design).

Originating in the State College at Albany's Department of Librarianship, the Collection was established in the late 1920s. Books donated by the faculty created a small historical children's literature collection.  Miriam Snow Mathes, Class of 1926, took special interest in it. Ms. Mathes, who was a librarian and teacher of children's literature, established an endowment fund in 1993 to provide continuing support for the Collection

Explore the Mathes Collection

Interested in children's literature? Want to find out what values were held in the past? 


Go to the Archives

The Mathes Collection grew slowly, but in the 1960s and 1970s, with funds for purchase, and the subsequent inclusion of the Library School library within the University Libraries, the pace of collecting by both gift and purchase accelerated. In the 1980s, grants were obtained for cataloging and promoting the Mathes Collection, which, by then, was part of the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives. A special online thesaurus and a computer-based subject index were developed by David Mitchell, Curator pro bono for the Mathes Collection and former faculty member of the School of Information Science and Policy.

This Collection is used by faculty and students as firsthand accounts of historical mindsets and perspectives that may be both illuminating and uncomfortable. The Mathes collection delivers a lens of the childhood experience as it is connected across time and culture.  

Support the Libraries

If you already support the Libraries please accept our heartfelt appreciation. If you are not yet a supporter but are considering giving to the University Libraries, you might want to learn more on this website, consult our list of endowments, or go directly to the University's Way to Give website.

Give Online Now

Follow Us on Twitter!

Be in the know by following the University Libraries on Twitter. Join the conversation using #UAlbanyLibs.