In 1744 printer and publisher John Newbery of London announced the availability of A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, intended for the Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly with Two Letters from Jack the Giant Killer by M. F. Thwaite and John Newbery. The first edition appears to be known only from an advertisement in the Penny London Morning Advertiser published on June 18, 1744. If copies were issued at that time they appear to have been read out of existence.
This small book, of which very few copies of early editions survived, is generally considered the first book for children in the modern sense. It consists of simple rhymes for each of the letters of the alphabet. To market the book to the children of the day the book could be purchased alone for 6d., or with a ball (for boys) or a pincushion (for girls) at a cost of 8d.
The book includes a woodcut of stoolball and a rhyme entitled "Base-Ball." This is the first known instance of the word baseball in print. In the book "Base-Ball" refers to the game Rounders, which had been played in England since Tudor times.
The book was very popular in England, and was first published in Colonial America in 1762.
♦ A facsimile of the edition printed in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1787 by Isaiah Thomas is available the Library of Congress website. In 1966 Oxford University Press issued a facsimile of the earliest known complete copy of an edition— that of London, 1767, preserved in the British Library. The facsimile included an introductory essay and biibliography by M. F. Thwaite, and an index to the introduction and bibliography. Thwaite wrote in his introduction, p. 3:
"The world of the day probably had little idea that this small work was in any way notable, or that it marked a new era in literature for the young. But there was one word in the advertisement which might have struck them an unusual. It was a word which was to open up new realms to young minds. To avow 'amusement' as a principal end in a book for boys and girls indicated that a revolution had taken place. In the past children's books had been reluctant to admit this feature, but in this new century of reason it was to be demonstrated that pleasure should be an important element, even though still firmly leashed to the old purposes of morality and instuction. Newbery was therefore only expressing the new spirit abroad. Before 1700 books for the young had been dominated by religious teaching, moral lessons or scholastic purpose. Now amusement was to be an equally desirable aim. And no one in those formative years of children's book-making was to follow it so well or to carry it so far as John Newbery."