Children’s Books Online: The Rosetta Project — the largest collection of illustrated antique books online

The 10 collections of online sites available to readers for free downloading and reading that we have considered over the past months have almost exclusively focused on books for adults. A number of these sites do include a section for children. However, some sites are devoted exclusively to children’s books, such as Children’s Books Online (CBO), and those books mostly done in a classic time for such writing: between 1880 and 1930.

CBO describes itself in the briefest of terms: It is a library of illustrated books begun in 1996 by just one person with a handful of books. Today it is a volunteer-driven organization of almost 100 residing throughout the world (see long list o volunteers here) who assist in website development and maintenance, and translating many of the titles into a variety of languages. The extent of the collection is not given but I would estimate several thousand volumes have been digitized. Each page of a book is downloadable as a jpg file. Books can be accessed by chapter and even image.

Titles are indexed by age, interest and reading levels, which are categorized from Pre-Reader to Adult.  In addition, downloads (as zip files) of almost 500 titles are available for purchase. CBO relies on donations and grants for this work.  The collection is certainly unique in presenting what many children’s literature specialists consider the Golden Age of the genre.