One of England's most enduring forms of oral culture is nursery rhyme. Although we often take these funny little ditties for granted, some of them have been about for a very long time and generally date from the around 16th, 17th, and most frequently, the 18th centuries. Apparently most nursery rhymes were originally composed for adult entertainment. Many were popular ballads and songs.
The earliest known published collection of nursery rhymes was Tommy Thumb's (Pretty) Song Book, 2 vol. (London, 1744). It included "Little Tom Tucker," "Sing a Song of Sixpence," and "Who Killed Cock Robin?" The most influential was Mother Goose's Melody: or Sonnets for the Cradle, published by the firm of John Newberry in 1781. Among its 51 rhymes were "Jack and Jill," "Ding Dong Bell," and "Hush-a-bye baby on the tree top."
An edition was reprinted in the United States in 1785 by Isaiah Thomas. Its popularity is attested by the fact that these verses are still commonly called "Mother Goose rhymes" in the United States
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20 August 2007
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