Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Educating the World with Pictures

"Children ought to be dearer to parents than gold and silver and silver are fleeting and transitory;
children an immortal inheritance."

Sphærus Celestis ('The Celestial Sphære')

Textura ('Weaving')

Specularia ('Looking-Glasses')

Prudentia ('Prudence')

Providentia Dei ('God's Providence')

Sensus Externi & Interni ('The Outward & Inward Senses')

Navis Oneraria ('A Merchant's Ship')

Ludus Alea ('Dice-Play')
"...We play at Chesse on a Chesse-board, where only art beareth the way.
The most ingenious Game is the game at Chess, wherein as it were
two Armies fight together in Battell."

Præstigæ ('Sleights')
"The Tumbler maketh several Showes, by the nimblenesse of his body,
walking to and fro on his hands, leaping thorow a Hoop &c..."

Fortitudo ('Fortitude')

Ludus Pilae ('Tennis-Play')
"In a Tennis-Court, they play with a Ball which one throweth,
and another taketh, & sendeth it back with a racket;
and that is the sport of Noble-men to stir their body."

Eques ('The Hors-man')

Supplica Maleficor ('The Tormenting of Malefactors')
"Malefactors are brought from the Prison (where they are ?not to be tortured) by Sergeants, or dragd with a horse to place of Execution. Theeves are hanged by the Hangman, on a gallows; Whore-masters are beheaded. Murtherers and Robbers are either laid upon a Wheel having their legs broken or fattned upo a stake. Witches are burnt in a great Fire. Some before they are executed have their tongues cut out, or have their Hand cut off upon a Block, or are burnt with Pincers. They that have their life given them, are set on the Pillory, are strapadoed, are set upon a wooden horse, have their ears cut off, are whipped, are branded, are banished, are condemned to the galleys..Traytors are pulled in pieces with 4 horses."

Jan Amos Comenius (Czech: Komenský) (1592-1670) is regarded in many quarters as the founding father of modern education and published over 150 books, most dealing with the philosophy of education.

As a Protestant Bishop, Comenius was at risk from the counter-Reformation and after living as a fugitive in his homeland of Moravia for 7 years, he escaped in 1628 and lived the remainder of his life in a number of countries across Europe. He was to acquire fame for advocating universal education (including women) with the vernacular language rather than latin and emphasizing a relationship of the senses with everyday objects in the environment rather than by rote learning. He believed that schools should be pleasant places with sympathetic teachers.

The basic tenet of his teachings has been called pansophism, or 'all knowledge', in which his didactic instructional books sought to marry philosophy, theology and education. This was a voice for reason in conjunction with the stirrings of the Age of Enlightenment, but the principles of education were still secondary to the central role of religion. Comenius's standing in the education world was esteemed and he was asked to be the first president of Harvard University - he turned them down.

The images here come from a reprint of a 1658 publication for children called Orbis Sensualium Pictus ('The Visible World in Pictures'). This was a landmark publication, originally issued in german/latin but was soon followed by numerous translations with multilanguage formats. It attempted to present the known world systematically and was the first instructional book aimed at children to use pictures. The numbers in each image are referenced in the accompanying text. The first english translation was by Charles Hoole in 1659. It was so popular that there were well over 100 editions released by the middle of the 18th century.

It is somewhat ironic that a groundbreaking educational tome of imagery should be somewhat poorly represented online - the images are all small format, in other words. Nonetheless, I learned me some latin today.


Anonymous said...

Captivating stuff, thank you. I have been trying to decode the puzzling text regarding the tormenting of the malefactors, and think that perhaps the bracketed part could be ‘where they are wont to be tortured.’ I’m thinking the -õ- might be a space-saving variant of -on-, seeing as how there’s a similar character further on in ‘fastned upõ a stake.’

peacay said...

I think maybe you're right. There were a couple of mispellings in there - or at least contradictory spellings eg. eare and ear. So my guess is that this was not your top notch printing house.

'fattned' might also be fastened - a bit hard to read when the text runs.

Actually part of the reason I enjoyed this stuff a lot was going through the olde english. I should have looked around for the 'f' font for the 's'.

I'm just reading my 1885 copy of Boswell's Life of Johnson (my only other 'rare' book) which helps in getting the rhythm. I still 'sound' it all in my head with a lisp at the attenuated 'f' strokes however.

Anonymous said...

The printing does seem a little ropey, and almost more like something you might expect to see from the 1550s than the 1650s. Perhaps the printers were referring back to these pages to help them along... I was particularly struck by the simple matter-of-factness of ‘A Buriall.’

peacay said...

The 'matter of factness' is all the more ironic and startling considering this was aimed at children.

"Don't grow up to be a malefactor kids!"

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