An early picture book I just discovered is Struwwelpeter.
I found the Struwwelpeter statue in downtown Frankfurt. The man holds his gun in the statue--at the end of one of the stories the rabbit holds (and shoots) the gun. The girl on the left is the one who burns up in her story. Look at the water flowing from the cats' eyes!
About a week ago I took a walk close to where I live in Frankfurt and found this bench.
The writing on the placard states that Heinrich Hoffmann is a picture book writer.
I’d never heard of him. So I came home and learned more. Hoffmann was a doctor and lived most of his life in Frankfurt. He wrote his first picture book as a Christmas present for his children in 1844, supposedly because he didn’t like any existing children’s books.
There is information about him at the Struwwelpeter museum (which I plan to visit soon) in Frankfurt. (Site is in German.)
There is also information in Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, a journal and of course on Wikipedia.
Hoffmann’s stories were very popular and translated in many languages. It seems that his books influenced later picture books, as in both the types of stories told and the illustrations.
Hoffmann’s most famous work is Struwwelpeter: Merry Stories and Funny Pictures, published in 1845. It was one of the best know picture books in the 1800’s. The first English translation was in 1848.
This book contains violent stories and images by today’s picture book standards: a girl burns up because she plays with matches, a tailor chops off a boy's thumbs because he sucks them, and a rabbits shoots a gun at a man.
Another photo of the Struwwelpeter statue in downtown Frankfurt.
Mark Twain also translated this book (Slovenly Peter, 1891) when he was lived in Berlin, but it wasn’t published until 1935.
To read the book go to this link at Project Gutenberg which is a great place to find older, out of copyright books. Their main page is here.
Struwwelpeter can also be found here.
My previous Historical Treasures of Children’s Literature #1 blog post is here. It discusses The Tragical Death of an Apple Pie, (about 1840), an ABC picture book which doesn’t use the letters I, T and U.