Audience for Dotty Dimple Series

Sophie May’s Dotty Dimple Series had an intended audience of children that were old enough to read longer novels, as evidenced by some paratextual clues, but young enough to appreciate a children’s novel. The first detail that indicates that the Dotty Dimple Series is found before the actual text of the novel begins, in the form of a table of contents. It numerates the chapters, one through eleven, and lists the page number that corresponds to the beginning of each chapter. This paratext would not be necessary on a book designed for younger readers just learning how to read, so it is highly likely that the intended audience for these stories were kids of a slightly more advanced age. There are still a few pieces of evidence that tell us there books were still in fact for children however. Most notably among this evidence is the book’s dedication, a short block of text reading “To the / Little Blind Children / In the Asylum for the Blind / At Indianapolis”. The dedication does not always directly translate to an intended audience, however the fact that Sophie May chose these books to dedicate to the blind children in Indianapolis strongly suggests that she believed the kids might enjoy the stories. While the table of contents and the dedication provides us with a solid age range, pinpointing the intended audience’s age exactly is more difficult. In an effort to understand which “little children” Sophie May is referring to in her dedication, I researched the 1878 Indianapolis Asylum for the Blind. I discovered that the Asylum had been founded in 1847 and still exists today. Originally its name was Indiana School for the Blind, and it catered to blind youths or those with low vision.[1] Unfortunately, in 1878 and today, the school caters to student in pre-school all the way through high school, so our best guess for the intended audience’s age is still a young child, but not a very young child.


Another important indicator of intended audience for the Dotty Dimple Stories is the price. Before the table of contents there is a page dedicated to advertising various stories and book series written by Sophie May, including the Dotty Dimple Series, Flaxie Frizzle Stories, Little Prudy Stories, and the Little Prudy’s Flyaway Series. Each set is a 6 volume series, for 75 cents per each volume. While today we might scoff at 75 cents per book, in 1878 the purchasing power of $1 was equivalent to $23.56 [2] in USD today, so in 2018 prices each volume would have cost $17.67. This is not a prohibitive cost, so it can reasonably be assumed that volumes were sold widely, with very few people incapable of purchasing a book. The cost for a set of 6, however, would total $106.02. Because these books are designed with children in mind, it is possible that the box set was a less popular purchase among patrons, simply due to the cost of the set in relation to the reality that they were designed for children. The physical condition of the box and each book housed inside would be consistent with the theory that the box set was less popularly used or purchased: the relative lack of wear and damage to the box set strongly suggests that these books were hardly every touched, and spent quite a bit of time on the shelf. It is possible that this book set would have been purchased as a gift to new parents, but the volumes’ gold leaf decoration, and the intricately decorated red box, indicates that the box set was more ornamental than it was practical.