[To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read”]

A Picture Book, for Little Children (1811-1814)

When it comes to truth in title, A Picture Book, for Little Children is hard to beat. It’s a book of pictures (45 of them), and thus probably appealed to little children.

Today, this offbeat little charmer with its weird captions also appeals to adults. It’s a good example of the way early publishers built a book by setting a collection of illustrations into a matrix of text. The worn cuts with their often misshapen people certainly weren’t created for this publication. d’Alté Welch identified Robinson Crusoe and Isaiah Thomas’s 1794 edition of Mother Goose’s Melody as sources (A Bibliography of American Children’s Books Printed Prior to 1821, number 993). A. S. W. Rosenbach credited Thomas’s 1795 edition of The Brother’s Gift; or, The Naughty Girl Reformed for another image (Early American Children’s Books, number 466). Here they’ve been patched together into a chapbook with a page size of about 2.5 inches wide and 5.5 inches high.

Whoever captioned the illustrations was probably doing a job he’d done all too often, and doing it in a hurry. But the dry little statements make for a book obliquely humorous. “We cannot see ourselves in this Glass,” reads the caption for a picture of a mirror, and, no, we certainly cannot. “What a curious figure she is!” reads another, and that’s as apt a description as any. Few turkeys have looked as bedraggled as the one in this book; “perhaps she is not very well,” the caption notes. Another appears to comment on the indecipherable illustrations printed from worn blocks: “We cannot see well at night;” and we truly cannot see what is going on in that illustration. The last page seems to contain a lesson on vanity: “The use of clothes is to cover us, and to keep us warm,” states the caption of an illustration of a finely dressed man and woman; “what do these people wear theirs for?” Probably, the writer seems to imply, not to keep warm. Below them, a peacock “make[s] a great show with his fine feathers,” which is appropriate, because “nature has given them”—unlike, perhaps, the couple pictured above it.

The author also managed to include some local flavor: “The Swedes Church” is at least the same shape as the Gloria Dei—also called “Old Swedes’”—Church, built before 1700 in Philadelphia. And the (upside-down) bible manages to slip in an advertisement for the publisher, Kimber and Conrad.

When was this book created? It’s undated, and the recycled illustrations show figures in 18th-century dress. Welch and Rosenbach give a date of about 1812. A copy in the online catalog of the American Antiquarian Society has a guessed date of 1806. Kimber and Conrad had their bookstore at 93 Market Street from 1809 to 1814, when they dissolved their partnership. (See advertisements in Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser [30 May 1809]: 4 col 3 and [27 March 1811]: 1 col 4. “Dissolution of Partnership.” American & Commercial Daily Advertiser [18 Jan 1815]: 1 col 3.) Samuel Merritt apparently established his business as a printer in 1811 and printed books for Kimber and Conrad from 1811 to 1814. (See Early American Imprints.)

My copy is presented here in an illustrated transcription, with links to images of the two-page spreads. For the sake of completeness, I’ve also linked to images of the unprinted front and back covers.


http://www.merrycoz.org/books/pixbook/PIXBOOK.xhtml
A Picture Book, for Little Children. (Philadelphia: Kimber and Conrad, n. d.) Printed by Samuel Merritt

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[front cover]

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[title page]

A
PICTURE BOOK,
FOR
LITTLE CHILDREN.

two sailors in front of a ship

PHILADELPHIA:
PUBLISHED BY KIMBER AND CONRAD,
NO. 93, MARKET STREET.
MERRITT, PRINTER.

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[page images]
[p. 2]

SMALL ROMAN LETTERS. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z &.
ITALIC LETTERS. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z &.
ROMAN CAPITAL LETTERS. A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z.
ITALIC CAPITALS. A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z.
DOUBLE LETTERS. fi ff fl ffl ffi.

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[p. 3]

man and girl in a landscape

A walk in the garden.



strawberries

Strawberries grow on little vines.

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[page images]
[p. 4]

woman scolding a girl

What troubles the old woman?



mirror

We cannot see ourselves in this Glass.

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[p. 5]

woman teaching girls

Children obey your mother.



church

The Swedes Church.

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[page images]
[p. 6]

man whacking a cane at a boy in a tree

Do not rob the poor farmer of his fruit.



tree

Some trees bear fruit, but this one has none on now.

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[p. 7]

four young ladies

Nice Folks.



a game of bowling

Nine Pins.

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[page images]
[p. 8]

man drinking from a jug

Do not drink too much.



woman walking on a terrace

She walks among the tombs.

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[p. 9]

man chasing a woman

Run fast, or she will be gone.



capital M

M. stands for Master, Mistress and Mother.

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[page images]
[p. 10]

woman looking back at two men

What are they doing here?



a collander

The Cullender belongs to the kitchen.

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[p. 11]

woman talking to seated girl

Now Martha, do get up.



a corset

Give the Stays to Grandmother.

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[page images]
[p. 12]

two men with small boat

Take down the sail when the wind blows too hard.



man fleeing something

We cannot see well at night.

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[p. 13]

a strange-looking girl

What a curious figure she is!



empty kettle

Water is boiled in a pot or in a kettle.

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[page images]
[p. 14]

Robinson Crusoe and Friday

Do be kind to the poor black boy.



a kite

A kite should never be raised in the street.

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[p. 15]

two women outside

Walk in, and rest in the cottage.



a goat

This goat has horns and a beard—he seems to have a mind to butt the old tree.

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[page images]
[p. 16]

a dog, a man, a keg in a wheelbarrow

Dogs are not often put to work—Drive on old man and do not overset.



trumpeter on a horse

This is a trumpeter—he is in a great hurry—Stage men and post riders sometimes blow a kind of trumpet.

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[p. 17]

man in a landscape

It is difficult to travel where there is no road.



a pathetic turkey

This turkey looks as if she had been in a shower of rain—perhaps she is not very well.

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[page images]
[p. 18]

man and woman standing on a bench

The bench looks pretty strong; perhaps it will not break down.



woman spinning

It is good to be industrious—when our work is done, we may have time to read.

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[p. 19]

three women indoors

Please to walk in, and take a seat by the fire and warm yourselves.



man shooting a rifle

This man shoots at random: he will kill no birds. Little boys should not meddle with guns.

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[page images]
[p. 20]

two men watch a ship at sea

A ship sails on the sea, it can be seen from the rocks when a great way off.



three men in a tub

Do not go far from the shore; the boat looks too much like a tub to be a safe one.

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[p. 21]

two men sitting back to back

It is not genteel to sit back to back—always look at a person when you speak to him.



a book, upside down

The bible is the best of all books. Children who can read in the bible, may go to Kimber & Conrad’s Store and buy one for themselves.

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[page images]
[p. 22]

woman and girl in a garden

Old folks should never forget they were once young.



a cow

A cow is a useful creature; she gives us milk; and butter and cheese are made of milk.

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[p. 23]

a man on his knees

This poor man appears to be in distress—he has thrown his axe upon the ground.



flying bird

Little birds can fly very fast—They do no harm; why should little boys delight to injure them?

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[page image]
[p. 24]

man and woman

The use of clothes is to cover us, and to keep us warm; what do these people wear theirs for?



a peacock

A peacock can make a great show with his fine feathers; but as nature has given them, let him show them.

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[back cover]

Copyright 1999-2017, Pat Pflieger
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