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children's book illustration

Beginnings of a Genre

Among the first picture books produced in the West and intended for children is Comenius's Orbis Pictus, a primerlike text written in Latin about 1657 or 1658. Earlier works meant for adults but suitable for children include the Japanese Scroll of Animals (12th cent.) with animated sketches by Toba Soja and the first English edition of Aesop's Fables, printed by William Caxton in 1484 and illustrated with woodcuts. John Newbery included woodcuts in The Renowned History of Little Goody Two Shoes (1765). The earliest illustrators of children's books were usually anonymous, but with the appearance of Thomas Bewick's art for Pretty Book of Pictures for Little Masters and Misses; or, Tommy Trip's History of Beasts and Birds (1799), well-known artists began to receive credit for their work in this field.

William Blake printed, engraved, and hand colored his own Songs of Innocence (1789). The Butterfly's Ball (1807), by William Roscoe, was illustrated by William Mulready, and illustrations for the first English version of Grimm's Fairy Tales (1824) were created by George Cruikshank. John Tenniel's remarkable drawings for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) remain unsurpassed. His art creates a visual framework through which the characters of the story come to life.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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