The Bear grumbleth.
May 16, 2014 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Charles McNamara reviews Orbis Sensualium Pictus, the world's first picture book for children, in the Public Domain Review. If you care to instruct your own little ones on the subject of Stones, Potherbs, Flying Vermin, Bowels, and the Tormenting of Malefactors, the full book is available.
posted by theodolite (15 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

instruct your own little ones on the subject of Stones, Potherbs, Flying Vermin, Bowels, and the Tormenting of Malefactors

Best argument for having kids.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:02 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]

This book is excellent!
posted by rebent at 8:11 AM on May 16

Metafilter: hoping that a firm grasp of ducks and mice is sufficient for understanding the divine.
posted by Naberius at 8:13 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]

I particularly like the list in the Deformed and Monstrous People section:
The jolt-headed,
The great-Nosed,
The blubber-lipped,
the blub-cheeked,
the goggle-eyed,
the wry-necked,
the Crump-backed.
the Crump-footed,
the steeple-crowned,
add to these
the bald-pated
posted by Chrischris at 8:17 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]

add to these
the bald-pated

Only if you want to be mauled by a she-bear. (which then grumbleth)
posted by Naberius at 8:27 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]

posted by Naberius at 8:28 AM on May 16

I realized that my child can actually recognize all of the herbs in the herb section, which I think means I'm doing all right according to the rules of 17th century parenting.
posted by BlueJae at 8:44 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]

I rather like the subtitle: A World of Things Obvious to the Senses Drawn in Pictures.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:38 AM on May 16

But what does the fox say?
posted by Mogur at 9:58 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Excellent post. Thank you.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:58 AM on May 16

Flying Vermin, Bowels, and the Tormenting of Malefactors

An incredible triple bill! Although the last Tormenting of Malefactors album was too commercial.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:53 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

This book is excellent!

Yes, true. Used to have a reprint of the Czech/Hungarian/German/Latin version. A swell tome. Not just a children's primer, but also a nice simple translation dictionary.

That said, not so much love for the McNamara review, which has that slightly snide kinda "people had such quaint narrow silly views of tings in olden times" implying "we're so much smarter in our views of tings now" vibe. So we have more sophisticated lenses in some senses available now, sure, that's our view.
posted by ovvl at 9:54 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

This is great, but particular thanks also for that Public Domain Review site in general - it's stuffed with excellent content.
posted by Segundus at 10:59 PM on May 16

I have a print copy of the Orbis Pictus (a 1968 facsimile of the first English edition) which is a delight to leaf through. Most of the text is a prosaic catalogue of what’s in the pictures, but here and there there are little asides, such as, of the ‘Birds that haunt the fields and woods’ we learn the Owl is ‘the most despicable,’ and ‘The Whoophoo the most nasty, for it eateth dung.’ And when discussing the virtue of Temperance he admonishes: ‘Revellers are made drunk, they stumble, they spue, and brabble. From drunkenness proceedeth lasciviousness; from this a lewd life amongst Whoremasters and Whores, in kissing, touching, embracing, and dancing.’ Elsewhere, Comenius appears to espouse a geocentric worldview: ‘The Heaven is wheeled about, and encompasseth the Earth, standing in the middle.’

In his introduction to the 1968 edition, John E. Sadler gives an account of the persistent prevalence of the Orbis Pictus well into the 18th and even the early 19th Century. Goethe (born in 1749) apparently remarked that it was the only book of its kind that came into the hands of children. In England there were 12 editions of it, the last (a somewhat modernised version) being issued in 1777. This, in turn, was the basis for the first American edition, published as late as 1810, which, writes Sadler, ‘shows evidence of the anonymous editor’s desire to bring in into line with American susceptibilities. Thus the men are shown in Yankee suits. In the pictures of Adam and Eve and of the Outward Parts of Man the nakedness of the figures is decently covered. [And] the Merchant Ship in Ch. XCII is shown with a conspicuous Stars and Stripes flag.’
posted by misteraitch at 12:44 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

Thank you! This is delightful! Today, I especially needed something delightful.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:38 AM on May 17

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