1000 Heads: the book

1000 heads, my illustration book

Inspiring books for the creative type


Vintage illustrated alphabets

I've always liked illustrated alphabets, the kind used to teach children how to read. It's a rather old invention and there are many curious examples around.

In the inexhastible Gutenberg Project I have just found several amusing 19th century books in this category. Let's start with the Dame Wonder's Picture Alphabet. This is an online version, like the rest of the links in this post, but each project page includes a downloadable version as well.

Another peculiar example: the so-called Fire-side picture alphabet. It cost 50 cents when it was originally published. Its illustrations are rather bizarre!

My First Picture Book, by Joseph Martin Kronheim, is probably the more classic-looking, with nice colour illustrations. As a bonus, some illustrated tales follow the picture alphabet.

The Picture Alphabet by Oliver Spafford is accompanied by the typical black and white engravings, the sort of illustration that comes to one's mind when thinking of old time books.

If you need to learn the alphabet having some fun, you can always try a rhyming version of the picture alphabet: just what you'll find in the book Footsteps on the Road to Learning.

Another classic idea is the alphabet as a human-body shape, like the Funny Alphabet by Edward Cogger. A more recent version was used in the dingbat Incipials, available from Typephases Dingbats & Fonts.

Updated: The Royal Picture Alphabet, by Luke Limner, full of whimsical vignettes for each letter.

The topics for an illustrated alphabet are as diverse as the themes you may think of: birds, for example, can be alphabetically used, as is the case in the Illustrated alphabet of birds.

In the Sleeping Beauty Picture Book, Illustrated by Walter Crane, together with the beautiful illustrations for the story, there is a collection of equally interesting alphabet pictures.

And let's not forget the immortal Edward Lear, the nonsense books genius, who created a great variety of picture alphabets in his (always fascinating) books. Most of his work is digitized, also at the Project Gutenberg website.

Related: Picture Alphabet books in the Amazon online bookshop.

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