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nursery rhyme lyrics & origins
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Nursery Rhymes Lyrics and Origins

Mother Goose Origins

Nursery Rhymes Lyrics and Origins


Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme Publications
The first known publication of a collection of Nursery Rhymes was in 1744 and the first confirmed collection of Nursery Rhymes using the term "Mother Goose" was published in 1780, although a collection of stories called "Mother Goose's Tales" was published in 1729! The Mother Goose title had caught the imagination of printers, publishers and the population! Invariably the illustrations accompanying the publications depicted 'Mother Goose' as an old crone, or a witch. Various claims have been made claiming ownership of the term 'Mother Goose'. Our search for the origins of the term "Mother Goose" have established the following information.

The French Connection
1650 - The earliest known written reference, which uses the term 'Mother Goose' in relation to a collection of stories, was in a monthly periodical by the French critic Jean Loret (1610 - 1665) in his 1650 "La Muse Historique" which contains the line, "Comme un conte de la Mere Oye" which translates into "Like a Mother Goose story".
1697 - A collection of eight famous folk tales which included "Sleeping Beauty", "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Cinderella" was published in 1697 by a French man called Charles Perrault. The book was called "Histories and Tales of Long Ago, with Morals". The frontispiece (the fronting of the first page, or titlepage, of a book) contained the words "Contes de ma mère l'Oye" or "Tales of Mother Goose" but contained none of the rhymes we associate with Mother Goose, most of which have obvious English origins. The illustration on the frontispiece depicted an old witch-like woman spinning and telling stories.

The English Theory
1729 - Perrault's tales were translated into English in 1729 by Robert Samber and published in the same year. The words on the frontispiece were "Mother Goose's Tales"
1744 - The earliest known collection of Nursery Rhymes called "Tommy Thumb's Song Book" was published in London by Mary Cooper
1744 - In 1744 a bookseller and publisher called John Newbery (1713-1767) set up his business in St. Paul’s churchyard. He published his first children’s book in the same year called "The Little Pretty Pocket Book" which was dedicated to “the Parents, Guardians and Nurses in Great Britain and Ireland”. It was an instant hit and it became apparent to John Newbery that his firm could make substantial profits by publishing children's tales and rhymes and established Children's literature as an important branch of the publishing business. His most successful publication was "Little Goody Two Shoes" which was published in 1766.
1780 - Thomas Carnan, the stepson of John Newbery, became the owner of the Newbery Publishing House following Newbery's death in 1767. Thomas Carnan entered the title "Mother Goose's Melody - or Sonnets for the Cradle" at the London Stationer's Hall. It was described as a compilation of traditional English nonsense songs and rhymes. It contained fifty-two rhymes each with its own black and white illustration, it was it was given additional marketing credibility by the inclusion of sixteen verses from Shakespeare.

The American Story
Within a few years there were several pirated editions of the Newbery Mother Goose published in America, one with the picture of a sharp-nosed old crone addressing two children as follows:

"Fudge! I tell you that all their batterings can't deface my beauties, nor their wise pratings my wiser prattlings; and all imitators of my refreshing songs might as well try to write a new Billy Shakespeare as another Mother Goose! We two great poets were born together, and we shall go out of the world together. No, No, my Melodies will never die, While nurses sing, or babies cry."

1786 - Isaiah Thomas published the first authorised American edition of "Mother Goose's Melody"
1860 - It was claimed in 1860 that a collection of Mother Goose children's nursery rhymes had been published in Boston by Thomas Fleet in 1719 under the title "Songs of the Nursery; or, Mother Goose's Melodies for Children." On the title page was the picture of a goose with a very long neck and a mouth wide open, and below this, "Printed by T. Fleet, at his Printing House in Pudding Lane, 1719. Price, two coppers." Thomas Fleet was born in England in 1685 and moved to America in 1812 - he died in Boston, Massachusetts in 1758. He married Elizabeth Goose (written also Vergoose and Vertigoose), the daughter of a wealthy Bostonian on 8th June 1715 and it is claimed that he used her name to originate the term "Mother Goose". The claim has been investigated but there is no evidence to support it. There is not a single known copy of any such book in existence or indeed any documented record relating to a book with this title prior to the date the claim was made.

1878 - Mother Goose in White was published
1879 - The Old Fashioned Mother Goose Melodies were published
1916 - Rand McNally & Company re published the collection of Mother Goose Rhymes as "The Real Mother Goose"
1928 - Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes arranged by Logan Marshall was published in Chicago with illustrations by Julia Greene
1958 - The Space Child's Mother Goose by Fredrick Winsor was published in New York with illustrations by Marian Parry

The Identity of Mother Goose & her Nursery Rhymes!

The Chapbooks and the Nursery Rhyme

Secret History of the Nursery Rhyme


Mother goose


Illustration of the story of Cackle, Cackle Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme


Note: A Rhymes lyrics and the perceived origins of some Nursery Rhymes vary according to location


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Written By Linda Alchin