Student Name: Andreea Marin

Focusing on John Amos Comenius’s work, The Orbis Sensualium Pictus the format to deliver such research seemed only appropriate through the social network/self-publishing website WordPress. Comenius would have been in synch with this idea himself as his main purpose with his grand opus was to deliver knowledge to children of all upbringings. He believed in equality between males and females, amongst the social classes and most importantly: in a universal education.

Appropriating Comenius’s wishes into our time it is evident that he too would use the internet to make knowledge accessible by anyone who wishes. Of course, that is only an assumption based on his political and educational views.  Evidently, there will always be limitations such as countries who do not speak the same language or have no computers, however due to Library access to Internet in addition to private computer owning (comparing it to an academic essay only seen by one person), displaying this information online still remains the most public and accessible.

Working on the blog however, proved to be a thorough learning experience due to the amount of information and research which could be done on a single work.

The idea of looking further into the Orbis Pictus came from searching Early Children’s Literature as I have a keen interest in the subject area. Although prior to the Orbis there were fables, legends and fairy tales from Greek Myth to Aesop’s fables to commonly developed fairy tales within each culture, no book was created specifically for children with illustrations. The illustrations are presently key to Children’s Literature. Every Chapters, Indigo or Barns & Noble’s most colorful section filled with vibrant illustrations is the Children’s Section. Tracing back, Comenius is the very first person to create the very first Illustrated Children’s book.

As per definition, what is considered to be the first illustrated book is one which uses its images to enhance the content. Comenius’s work being a textbook accomplishes the task.

I first went to the Thomas Fisher Rare Books library where I picked up the 1777 copy of the Orbis Pictus. I examined it and photographed it (135 images were taken).

Following the 200 years anniversary of the Grimm Brothers at the Osborne Children’s Collection Library I encountered the head librarian with whom I discussed my project. She said that not only do they have facsimiles of the Orbis Pictus but they also have the 1672 copy (3rd edition) and another 1777 copy. In her words “amazingly enough, when the Empress of Japan visited, the 1672 copy of the Orbis Pictus is all she asked to see.”

Following that meeting I returned to the Osborne library and examined the books for several weeks. What came to my attention was that the 1777 copy here did not have marbled end pages but had an inscription on its hardcover on the back of a “1777.” It was then that I realized the other 1777 copy from the Fisher Library had been part of someone’s private library and had been re-bound to match all his collection. In addition the spine of the 1777 copy was fully in tact and did not contain red, black or golden tooling. According to the head librarian, they believe this copy was preserved by a family who knew its value and passed it down each generation taking maximum care of it.

The 1672 copy of course was of more interest as it was closer to the time it was first published which is why the focus is mainly on it and it is simply compared to the other copies.

In the blog itself I took advantage of the lack of restriction and I decided to cover as much ground as possible in relation to Comenius and the Orbis Pictus. The division of categories displays the different areas I explored. Books about Illustrations, biographies on Comenius and various facsimiles were obtained from Emanuel Library, E.J. Pratt Library, Thomas Fisher and Kelley.  In addition, I bought my own facsimile from AbeBooks.com of the 3rd edition so I could work on it at home in regards to content.

There are very few academic papers today focusing on Comenius and his work (of course the Orbis is not his only one) and in most Children’s Literature analysis or criticism excerpts appear on Comenius only as large as a paragraph. Many acknowledge his work and make a note of it, but due to its textbook format and one translating from Latin to (whichever language the copy is of example: Latin-German, Latin-English) with pictures next to it, it becomes less discussed as the content is not as debatable. One good example would be Seth Lerer’s book Children’s Literature from Aesop to Harry Potter which contains only 5-6 sentences on Comenius. In truth, when analysing from a literary point of view, Comenius’s work is difficult to assess.

Given more time and available researchable items, this project could cover much more academic ground. It would be interesting to examine the subject matter within the Orbis as well as the way it is presented. There are in fact religious references despite the author’s attempt to restrain from them. The way the illustrations are laid out and the distinction between the different copies in illustration content (as can be seen in the “direct comparison” post) is just as fascinating and would make an interesting in-depth study to analyse them from other non-bibliographic points of view.