The class of fiction held in this collection is distinctive both in content and appearance. It was produced from about 1860 to around the end of the First World War. It consists of stories and tales sometimes explicitly juvenile, but often advertised as both for the juvenile and adult reader, usually tending to moral improvement, frequently illustrated with woodcuts or engravings, and typically bound in bright decorated or pictorial cloth covers. It coincided with the movement towards popular education and mass literacy, which in England and America was stirring from the 1830s and 40s and in England culminated in compulsory, state-funded elementary education under Forster's Education Act of 1870.
This sort of literature has its origins in the chapbook stories and poems printed from the 1780s onwards by people like Hannah More, and was connected with the Sunday School and Charity School Movement and the movement for popular education in general, particularly the education of the children of the poor of the rapidly expanding industrial towns and cities. These books were cheap, attractive, and often subsidized by their publishers; they were also accessible and easy to read. They were aimed largely at the young, semi-literate, and newly literate classes of late Victorian England, for use in the cottage, servant's quarters, school rooms, nurseries, orphanages, and Sunday schools.