The Prettiest Book for Children (1770) is an early example of a fantasy story written specifically for children, designed to entertain but also to improve the reader.
Don Stephano Bunyano, who describes himself as the ‘under-secretary to Giant Instruction’, is the book’s narrator. Although his name recalls John Bunyan, whose books (such as Pilgrim’s Progress, 1678) were often read by children, Bunyano is a figure more in the tradition of Jonathan Swift’s Lemuel Gulliver: a fictional character purporting to be giving a true account of strange, overseas lands. The islands Bunyano describes are idyllic places where the sheep are pure white and the population is devoutly Christian but also tolerant of different opinions. Bunyano was not the first to write about the Fortunate Isles: they occur in Greek and Celtic mythology and appear in works by Plutarch, Pliny the Elder and Ptolemy amongst others.