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Literature, Art, & Media
1200 to 1799

Date Event

The Grolier Codex. consists of eleven damaged sheets of fig-bark paper that is an almanac for the planet Venus. It is thought to have originally been about twenty pages. It is written and illustrated in a combination of Maya and Mixtec

Maya codex pages


1300-1500 Chinese movable type first wood then metal. Was tedious because it required thousands of characters to complete a book.
1455 Movable type and the press (probably adapted from an olive or wine press) were used by Gutenberg to complete the first printed book with this method.First used wood blocks, later metal plates, First book printed was the Bible. Later books had other religious stories and playing cards were also printed and sold.
1422-1491 William Caxton was the first printer in England. Some titles he printed were: Caxton's Book of Curtesye, Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, The Boke of Histories of Hason, The Historye of Reynart the Foxe, and The Fables of Aesop's
History of printing in England and William Caxton is described in the children's historical fiction book Bendy's Quest. (Map)

Miss Campion holding a hornbook, 1661. From Tuer’s History of the Horn-Book.Hornbook had the alphabet (some upper and lower case letters), sometime common letter combinations and syllables, numerals, and the Lord's Prayer. It was a block of wood with a single parchment or sheet of paper covered with transparent horn to protect the paper, fastened with strips of brass around the edges, with tack heads to protect the horn from scratches, and some could be hung around the neck or on a belt.

Right. Miss Campion holding a hornbook, 1661. From Tuer’s History of the Horn-Book.

Supposedly Queen Elizabeth I used a hornbook and it's still in existence and she is believe to have given a silver hornbook to Lord Chancellor Egerton. Source

1476 Caxton's printing press
1484 Aesop's Fables - translated and printed in England by William Caxton
First books that children read were written for adults
1487 Les Contenances de la Table, by Jean Du Pre? first printed book intended to be read specifically by children, other than Latin grammar books a French book of rhyming quatrains on table manners.
1516 Sir Thomas More writes Utopia, first use of the word, utopia, that means an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect: paradise, nirvana. Opposite is dystopia.




Dorothy Penn writes that Mexico had a printing press in 1539 that printed booklets in Spanish to instruct Native Americans in the christian faith.
The book, Doctrina Breve, written by Juan de Zumárraga (first bishop of Mexico) was printed in 1544.
The book, Doctrina Christiana, was the first book printed in South America, Lima in 1584. Religous information translated into Native American languages.
1605, 1610

CervantesDon Quixote, written by Miguel de Cervantes, published in 1605, was an instant success and is considered the best Spanish novel of all time along with a second volume, published in 1615. Cervantes drew from his experiences to write a popular piece of fiction where a middle aged man, Don Quixote, is the main character.

Inspired by chivalrous ideals he gained from his literary past he arms himself with a lance and sword, mounts his trusty steed (old nag), Rocinante, and sets out to defend the helpless. In his quest he befriends, Sancho Panza, who becomes his loyal and faithful squirer as they travel La Mancha in search of adventure and glory to honor the Princess (peasant women) Dulcinea del Toboso. Cervantes has described his books as humerous tales to undermine ideas in other "vain and empty books of chivalry".

1630-1790 Chapbooks - Jack the Giant Killer
Chapbooks inexpensive books from a penny that were sold by peddlers (chapmen). They had 16, 32, 64 pages that were usually folded with no binding or fastener.
They included any stories that could be found retold in a drastically condensed version.
All literary quality or charm was lost, the grammar was often faulty. It was action and adventure that moved along a simple plot to tell the story.
Examples: -
  • The History of Valentine and Orson, which is thought to be a fore runner of Mowgli in Kipling's Jungle Book's and
  • Tom Thumb His Life and Death

Moravian bishop and educator, John Amos Comenius (1592-1671) put into practice his belief in better education for children by preparing the world's first children's picture book, published at Nuremberg in 1657 as Orbis Sensualium Pictus, (The World Illustrated). A German/Latin textbook with pictures and descriptions of all chief things in the World. It was to entice witty children to it ... to stir up their attention... by sport, and a merry pastime. Translated to English in 1659 as A World of Things Obvious to the Senses.

The Project Gutenberg EBook - Orbis Pictus -

164? Milk for Babes, Drawn of the Breasts of Both Testaments, Chiefly for the Spiritual Nourishment of Boston Babes in either England, but may be of like Use for any Children - This was the first book for children published in the new world. Written by John Candy? Later he added - A Catechism in Verse, which begins: Who is the Maker of all Things? The Almighty God who reigns on high. He formed the earth, He spread the sky.
Its famous rhyming alphabet begins: In Adams fall We sinners all. Thy life to men? God's Book attend.
Illustrations include - a figure contemplating a tombstones and the burning of Mr.. Rogers, whilehis wife and 10 children watch.
1671 A Token For Children: Being an Exact Account of the Conversion Holy and Exemplary Lives, and Joyful Deaths of several young Children Prayers and Graces, Fitted for the Use of Little Children, by James Janewa.
A famous book that was long popular with the heaven-bent adults who ruled over Puritan nurseries. Twenty some stories where the main character was aged 5-15 and piously dies after an admirable life knowing the scriptures and believing his or her salvation.
1678 Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan - (part 1 1678, part 2 1684). Out of the Puritan world one great book for children. Bunyan read chapbooks as a child and one History of the Life and Death of that Noble Knight Sir Bevis of South Hampton, was influential in his writing Pilgrim's Progress.
1682 Mary Rowlandson, also Mary Talcott (c. 1637 – January 5, 1711) a colonial American woman captured by Native Americans and held for 11 weeks before being ransomed. In 1682, six years after her ordeal, she wrote about it in, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. Her book is considered a seminal American work read by New England and in England. It can be considered the first American bestseller. A narrative that was a source for eighteenth and nineteenth-century writers James Fenimore Cooper, Ann Bleecker, John Williams, and James Seaver. Source
1693 John Locke (1632-1704) book, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. describes how he believed children were rational creatures with individual needs, not miniature adults to be taught by rote. He believed in the effectiveness of learning through play rather than force-feeding of social values... His ideas were later ignored and overshadowed by Rousseau. Children as blank slates (tabula rasa) making education the responsibility of adults and discounted heredity and the idea all children are born with the capacity to learn.
1690 or 91 New England Primer: Alphabet through rhymes, lessons in spelling, reading and catechism
1697 Tales of Mother Goose, by Charles Perrault or Pierre Perrault d"Armancour
1712 A Little Book for Little Children, by T. W.: first book to use an approach from the point of view of the child rather than the adult.

In France Contes de Ma Mere l'oye or Histories of Long Ago or Tales of Long Ago with Morals, or more familiar Tales of Mother Goose.
It is questionable if they were written for children or adults, but children love them: The Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Blue Beard, The Master Cat or Puss in Boots, Diamond and Toads, Cinderella, Little Thumb, and Riquet with the Tuft.
Pierre Perrault d'Armancour the elder son of Charles Perrault is thought to have collected them.

1711-1780 Beauty and the Beast and other fairy tales, by Mme. de Beaumont

Devine and Moral Songs for the Use of Children, by Isacc Watts (1674-1748). Moralized lessons in verse about busy bees and quarrelsome dogs, wrote tender and beautiful hymns which didn't dwell on fearful God, but God as our refuge.

Against Idleness and Mischief.

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour;
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

How skillfully she builds her cell,
How neat she spreads her wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

In works of labour, or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be past,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.

1719 Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe (1659-1731) wrote in advance of his times about all kinds of social problems, Put in pillory, poor, and prison. continued to write when 60, writing for adults, children skip masses of moral ruminations, children's editions are usually abridged.
Adventure stories and theme of shipwrecked was later copied in 1812, by Johann David Wyss, (1743-1818) in his The Swiss Family Robinson.
1726 Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift. He was worried about how it would be received so he first published it anonymously as Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships. Now known as Gulliver's Travels In 1735 an amended version was published with additons and changes by the publisher and maybe Swift. Most people have images of Gulliver awakening bound with tiny little people crawling all over him, wether they have read the book or not.
1729 Mother Goose was translated by R. Samber and published by John Newberry, who discovered the importance of children's books as a potential market. With his success in the children's book market he included a book with each sale of Dr. James Fever Powders (1744).

A Little Pretty Pocket Book, by John Newberry

A Little Pretty Pocket Book
Image source
Demonstrated a momentous new approach to books for children as one of the first books written for the express purpose to entertain and instruct children simultaneously. As the cover page proclaims:
A Little Pretty Pocket Book,
Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy, and Pretty Miss Polly

With two Letters from JACK the GIANT-KILLER.
As also
The use of which will infallible make Tommy a good Boy and Polly a good Girl.
To which is added,
A Little Song-book,
A new attempt to teach children the English alphabet, by way of diversion.

They were moral letters, games, fables, proverbs, poems, rules of behavior, and rhyming alphabet The style and tone was light and moralistic. The ball and pincushion was an example of an early reward system similar to a contract where pins were inserted into the red side when the child was good and into the black side when the child did bad things. If all the pins were in the red side the publisher would send a penny, if all pins made it to the black side, the publisher would send a switch.
1745 The Governess or The Little Female Academy, by Sarah Fielding.
1746-1770 Battledore, conceived by one of John Newbery's workers, had three folding cardboard leaves. Alphabets, easy reading, numerals, and woodcut illustrations.
1762 Emile, by Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
Proclaimed a new day for children in this book. Children should not be forced into a straight jacket of adulthood. Proper moral development by living the simple life. He was more or less ignored as authors took to more didactic stories (intellectual - Locke), or religion (Puritanical). Each story was made into a lesson of moral information to inform or educate, not the fear of Hell, but the pressure of information.
1765 Little Goodie Two Shoes, or The Renowned History of Little Goody Two Shoes, Otherwise Called Mrs. Margery Two Shoes, First novel written for children, by Oliver Goldsmith who told the story of a virtuous and clever child, Margery Meanwell.
1783-1789 The History of Sandford and Merto - four didactic volumes by Thomas Day.
Tommy Merton was the spoiled, helpless, ignorant son of a rich gentleman, while Jerry Sandford was the industrious, competent son of an honest farmer. His father realizes this and charges his son's education to Maria Edgeworth, four volumes later he will study and philosophize forever.
1785 Mother Goose - First American edition published by Isaiah Thomas. Probably pirated from a Newberry edition.
1786 History of the Robins, by Sarah Trimmer (1741-1810) an animal story with talking animals. It was thought as illogical.
1789 Songs of Innocence, by William Blake, a book of poems for and about children with each poem illustrated by Blake (1757-1827).
1794 Songs of Experience by William Blake a companion to Songs of Innocence.
1796 The Purple Jar, by Maria Edgeworth (1744-1817)
Followed the ideas of Rousseau and told moral tales with dramatic realism, Her stories had real plots, sustained suspense and surprise endings that took some of the sting from the inevitable morals. However, the writing was so didactic that plots and characterization were weakened. Also wrote Simple Susan.


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