Religious Tract Society, London, 1863
The Child’s Companion and Juvenile Instructor was established by the Religious Tract Society (founded in 1799) and initially edited by George Stokes.
It ran from 1824 to 1932 as a journal of ‘true stories for young Protestants’, according to itself. It emerged out of the growing Sunday School movement and reflected the connection between literacy and the evangelicism in nineteenth-century Britain.
It published stories of dedicated missionaries, poor but pious children and pieces on natural history and geography. Fun was not on the agenda, as the core idea was that ‘children are sinners and need to learn how to become better Christians’.
During a period of increasing social disorder in the rapidly expanding cities and growing radicalism among the industrialized poor, the Religious Tract Society used their cheap popular literature to spread the message of social deference and Christian salvation to the working class, with a particular focus on children by the mid-century. Despite this, the idea of developing a literary form specifically aimed at children was soon to lose its didactic overtones and pave the way for the ‘comics’ of the twentieth century.
The binding is by John Davison, a well-known binder of this kind of material, who worked from 11 Jewin Crescent in Cripplegate, a street popular with London bookbinders at the time .
The wood and steel engravings are largely unsigned stock images, and the presswork is quite poor. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, the book is a masterpiece of Victorian sentimentality.