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500-year-old manners book advises kids to 'pyke notte thy nostrellys'

No nose-picking! A new British Library site surfaces some treasures online, include the Lytille Childrenes Lytil Boke, which tells kids what not to do in polite company.

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TL;DR: Behave yourselves, kiddos!  

British Library/Public Domain

Take heart, all ye parents weary of reminding your kids not to pick their noses and burp loudly. Fifteenth-century moms and dads faced the same battles to keep their tykes well-mannered.  

Just take a look at the 500-year-old Lytille Childrenes Lytil Boke, which taught proper etiquette to children of families aspiring to life among English royals or nobles. It's been digitized for the first time by a new British Library site. 

The Little Children's Little Book manuscript, from around 1480, is written in Middle English, so there are lots of thines, thous and thys. But screens, cars and vaccines aside, kids will be kids. They dug out their boogers then and they dig out their boogers now. 

"Pyke notte thyne errys nothyr thy nostrellys," reads one rule. (Don't pick your ears or nose.) "Spette not ovyr thy tabylle," reads another. (Don't spit over your table.) "Bulle not as a bene were in thi throote." (Don't burp as if you had a bean in your throat.)

This kind of a behavioral guide, known as a courtesy book, was common in parts of Europe between the 13th and 18th centuries. The author of The Lytille Childrenes Lytil Boke links manners not only to social rank but to religion, saying courtesy comes straight from heaven.

The new site, called Discovering Children's Books, explores the history and diversity of children's books. It's full of stories, poems and original illustrations going back centuries. 

Among the 100 treasures to be found are two wax tablets from around 2,000 years ago once bound together with string as part of a Greek homework book. The teacher's writing can be seen scratched into the black wax at the top. More recent items include a spelling primer from 1799 Dublin, an abolitionist poetry book for children from 1826 and a collection of short stories from around 1829 written by the Brontë sisters' headmaster. 

This book by the Brontë sisters' headmaster provided rigid moral instruction for its young readers. Many of the stories feature children who receive divine retribution for misbehaving. 

Public Domain

The free online resource was created in partnership with Newcastle University's Seven Stories center for children's books, the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum. 

Digitization projects like Discovering Children's Books continue to bring historical transcripts to screens around the world with exciting immediacy. Last year Cambridge University's Casebook Project released one of the largest surviving sets of medical records in history, opening a veritable "wormhole" into 17-century English life. Fascinating stuff these online historical repositories, yf thy time allows for some clicking around.  

These two wax tablets, once bound together with string, come from a Greek homework book around 2,000 years old. 

British Library/Public Domain