Orbis sensualium pictus


Orbis sensualium pictus is often described as the first children’s picture-book. It was also one of the first books about education to be aimed at children, not teachers.

What is shown here?

These pages show the letters of the alphabet. Copying the sounds made by animals is meant to help children learn the letters. For example, children are encourage to make the sound of a bleating lamb for a ‘b’ and a hissing serpent for a ‘s’.

When was it published?

It was first published in Latin and German in Nuremberg in 1658. The author was Jan Komenský, also known as Comenius, who was born in Northern Moravia (now in the Czech Republic). Comenius was a teacher with a strong interest in educational theory. He wanted to create a text-book that would be accessible to all levels of ability. He also wanted to show how the senses can help people learn. As such, the book is full of pictures, 150 to be exact, covering a range of things: animals, nature, the elements and religion. This copy is in black and white, although later copies added colour.

Comenius’s book was a hit across Europe and was translated into several other languages. This English edition, translated by Charles Hoole, was published in 1659.

Despite the book being incredibly popular, few copies have survived. Because the book was so well-used, the pages got torn or wore out as the children returned to the pictures over and over again.

What does Orbis sensualium pictus mean?

The Latin title translates to The Visible World or The World Around Us in Pictures. Each picture has two captions or descriptions accompanying it. One in Latin, and one in the language of the country that it was published in. At the time, Latin was commonly taught in schools. It was the language used by the monarchy and the clergy across much of Europe. It was also the language that the Bible was in.

Full title:
Orbis sensualium pictus
1659, London
Printed book / Children's book
Johann Amos Comenius
Usage terms
Public Domain

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