We are very lucky at the Whipple to have a nice collection of books aimed at improving and expanding the minds of the young. The most obvious author we have is the Rev. John George Wood (1827-1889). His first book was published in 1851 and he aimed to encourage all people, not just children, to learn about natural history. Most of our juvenile books are from the 19th to early 20th centuries and are from both women and men authors.

Title page of Orbis sensualism pictus

The earliest book we have is Orbis sensualium pictus by Johann Amos Comenius (1592-1670). It is full of wonderful woodcuts and was originally published in Latin and German in 1658. It is set out like an encyclopaedia and is noted by Murphy as “what is now recognised as the first picture book make expressly for children”. Noted as the “Teacher of Nations”, Comenius was born in Moravia, which is part of the Czech Republic and taught in Poland, Sweden and Hungary. Our copy was published in 1777 and is in English and Latin. Below are some examples of the woodcuts relating to books.

The second oldest book directed at children that we have in our collection is Kleine Katechismus der Natuur voor Kinderen by Johannes Florentinus Martinet (1729-1795). Martinet wrote around 20 books for children and believed that you had to study nature to understand the true miracles of Gods ideas of the world. Marieke van Delft has stated that “he was central to the education of the Dutch nobility and upper classes throughout the latter half of the 18th century and beyond”. As well as the Dutch version, the volume we have also has a French translation bound with it. It was originally published around 1778 and we own a later edition from 1792. Below are the two versions of the frontispiece, one for the French translation then the one for the original Dutch.


Murphy, P. (2009) “Using picture books to engage middle school studies” in Middle School Journal, vol.40, 4. Pp.20-24

Radl, O. (1944) “Development of Czechoslovak nationalism” in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol.232. pp61-70.