From the early modern period to the nineteenth century, one of the most popular forms of inexpensive literary entertainment was the chapbook. (The phenomenon was not limited to English-speaking countries.) Encompassing everything from nursery rhymes to shocking tales, chapbooks (also known as "small books." among other things) were targeted at both adults and children. Frequently, as in the case of Gothic chapbooks, these ephemeral books provided readers with (much shortened) access to popular novels. (Other chapbooks were more wholesome and/or educational in intent.) McGill Library and Ball State University have some of the most extensive chapbook collections now online.
The David Rumsey Map Collection presents 19th-century maps, drawn by children. Relics of an approach to the teaching of geography through the copying of existing maps and atlases, many of these maps are stunning in their detail and elegance--though not always in their accuracy. Also, I'll be damned if one of the teachers mentioned didn't create something that looks an awful lot like an infographic. [Via]
Although the sculptor Hiram Powers (1805-73) enjoyed considerable success with his portraits and more allegorical works, he is now almost entirely remembered for one of nineteenth-century America's most hotly-debated sculptures: The Greek Slave. Powers was a little vague about the inspiration for the statue--longstanding dream, or response to the Greek War of Independence (see previously)? Understood at the time as a major leap forward in establishing America as a serious force in the art world, the statue was an international hit (appearing at the Great Exhibition of 1851), and was endlessly copied and daguerrotyped. (Some of the copies turn the statue into a much more ambiguous bust, or hark back to one of its major influences, the Venus de Milo.) However, some observers, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning and, much more pointedly, the illustrator and caricaturist John Tenniel, suggested that an American sculptor might wish to think about other slaves.
America on Stone: 19th Century American Lithographs is a browsable collection of lithographs on topics from advertising to uniforms. The viewer includes pan and zoom functions. (Harry T. Peters, who amassed this collection, was particularly interested in Currier & Ives.) Lithography became popular very quickly after its discovery at the end of the eighteenth century, rapidly finding its way into such commercial uses as sheet music covers. Needless to say, it also came in handy for far more exalted applications. (For previous MeFi adventures in lithography, try these posts.)
In the 19th century, English author Favell Mortimer wrote several books describing various countries to children. Apparently she didn't travel much. [more inside]
The Benders were a family of German immigrants who opened a store and restaurant in the newly formed state of Kansas in the late 19th century. Led by the spiritualist Kate, they also were some of the United States first serial killers. [more inside]
The Household Cyclopedia - a book of general knowledge printed in 1881.
Miss Mary's Victorian Halloween, being a Compendium of Gothic Images, Tales & Whimsy from the Victorian Era.
Devoted to late nineteenth century adventure novels? Irredeemably neurotic? For you, there is Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton universe, in which such extraordinary gentlemen as Dracula and Sherlock Holmes are related through complex genealogies dating back to a peculiar meteorological event in the British countryside. This is meta-nerdiness.