Children's animal tales
- Published: 10 Nov 2015
Orbis sensualium pictus
Often described as the first children’s picture-book, this alphabet book uses the sounds made by animals as a way to learn the letters.View images from this item (2)
Often, these were reworkings of existing stories and used older woodblocks, such as images of horses, dogs or sheep, but by the early nineteenth-century, more sophisticated texts were offered for sale. An increasing number of popular illustrated natural histories, public displays of exotic animals and the earliest public zoos in Paris (1793) and London (The Tower of London from the 1720s, and the Zoological Society of London from 1826) expanded the menagerie of creatures available for writers and illustrators.
Publishers seeking a commercial advantage, might make use of these creatures in educational texts, such as this alphabet book, An Alphabetical arrangement of animals for little naturalists, probably compiled by the printer and published under the pseudonym ‘Sally Sketch’ in 1821. The title makes reference to the popular pursuit of natural history, a subject deemed both pleasant and useful, and arguably more practical than fairy tales or nursery rhymes.
Animals for little naturalists
This book features an alphabet of animals and was created to help children learn to read.View images from this item (1)
Fabulous Histories interweaves the story of a family of robins and human family, and aimed to teach children about kindness and social duty. The family of robins offered a model of behaviour for young humans to copy, and extending sympathy to animals would also encourage children to be kind to one another.
It was to prove to be an influential model for many children’s stories for much of the nineteenth century. Trimmer’s book was issued in many editions, with a range of illustrations and sometimes in abridged form as in the History of the Red-Breast shown here (1793). The use of the robins, it should be noted, also told a particularly British story, with robins presented as the acme of family life, and alien birds, such as the cuckoo regarded with suspicion.
History of the Red-Breast
In Sarah Trimmer’s enormously successful book she interwove the stories of a family of robins and a human family.View images from this item (1)
This children's classic is told from the perspective of the horse Black Beauty.
By the turn of the twentieth century, animals had firmly established themselves as central to the pantheon of tales for children. Numerous works in the ‘golden age’ of Edwardian children’s literature contain unforgettable creatures, such as the crocodile in J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy (1911; and later dubbed Tic Toc), or are its central characters, such as Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1911) and, of course, Beatrice Potter’s series of animal tales.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Beatrix Potter's anthropomorphic children's tales include closely-observed details of animals’ lives.
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