SELCIE (Scotland’s Early Literature for Children Initiative) is a collaborative research project, founded by Valentina Bold and Sarah Dunnigan in 2016, dedicated to exploring Scotland’s forgotten history of children’s literature.
It has grown to encompass a dedicated team of postgraduate researchers and volunteers (for who we all are, see under ‘People‘) who are working with Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood. Our consortium brings together researchers, scholars, teachers, and students interested in this rich but neglected heritage. We seek to renew and inspire attention not only to the most famous Scottish creators of imaginative children’s literature such as J.M. Barrie, R.L. Stevenson, and George MacDonald but also to bring to light new voices and texts from the past — in English, Scots, and Gaelic from printed and oral traditions, from different regions of Scotland, and from the neglected historical wealth of Scottish women’s writing — who write for and about children. Our work is also concerned with the readers, owners, and collectors of children’s books in Scotland, and with what the material culture of this heritage can tell us.
Our major project of 2018 was an exhibition held at Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood in 2018 which will showcase for the first time the treasures from the Museum’s book archives (see under ‘Exhibition and Events’). Our blog and twitter feed shared our passion and curiosity for the fairy tale collections, adventure stories, picture books, folktales, chapbooks, and encyclopaedias (to name only a few things) as we discover them in the Museum’s City Chambers basement archive. Loved and cherished once upon a time, these texts also tell stories about the young Scottish readers and book-owners who once held them in their hands. Our posts from the vault are not only about the most precious, fascinating, and quirky of these finds but the little imprints left in them — inscriptions and dedications, handmade bookmarks and flowers — of their readers’ lives.
Danielle Howarth, SELCIE’s Principal Research Assistant, introduces the archiving project and forthcoming exhibition on our Homepage.
SELCIE aims to increase knowledge, awareness and understanding of Scotland’s heritage of children’s literature. Through this dedicated website and our various collaborations and initiatives — building on the success of Valentina and Sarah’s conference, ‘Scottish Children’s Literature’, held in Dumfries in June 2015 in collaboration with Peter Pan Moat Brae, and our current work with Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood — we seek to bring together academics, writers, museum people, readers and lovers of children’s literature. The SELCIE site will build a database of people and resources in the area, communicate knowledge and information about work and projects in development, and nurture new exchanges and affiliations.
About a girl, a pixie & some water-lily frogs…
SELCIE’s banner image is taken from the front cover of one of the Museum’s loveliest copies of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales Told for Children. This is an image of Thumbelina, the first tale in his second collection, Eventyr, Fortalte for Børn, published in Copenhagen in 1835.
The story of a tiny girl, born out of a tulip-flower, the image captures the moment of her riverbank encounter with the mother toad who insists that she marries her son … but just before she’s set free by the little fishes to sail onto a fairytale ending where true love grows through kindness. There’s another Andersen connection to Edinburgh: a lover of Romantic Scottish literature, and a visitor to Edinburgh in 1847, he described the Old Town (now home to the Museum of Childhood) as ‘so picturesque and magnificent, so old, so murky, so distinctive’! (qtd in Paul Binding’s Hans Christian Andersen. European Witness [New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014], p. 269).
SELCIE is very grateful to Dave Oulton of the College Web Team for creating and designing this website, and for photographing the Andersen volume, our Twitter owl, and many other books and artefacts unearthed from the Museum’s vault.