Nonfiction Illustrated 2016 4

Category 4: Education and Information.

These works are often the most straightforward of all illustrated subjects, but not the simplest. The seeds of modernity were carried in illustrated botanicals and technological manuals, which provided access to knowledge of manifestly concrete, non-verbal subjects. This is an overlooked and grossly underestimated realm of achievement. The secondary versions tend to be composed for educational settings and audiences. Informational picture books for small children comprise another set of such works, which offer the child a chance to pause over things and environments that might otherwise go by too fast to absorb. 

As before, several examples. 

Instructional Science Cards for General Education
. James Reynolds, Publisher; John Emslie, designer, illustrator, engraver. London, 1850s..

I bought this 1846 meteorological greatest hits plate along with a handful of other such instructional cards from an antique print dealer in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It bears the notation James Reynolds & Sons, 174 Strand, London. 

The Science and Society site in the UK provides this bibliographical data, which includes an illustrator/engraver credit to John Emslie:

One of a selection of 44 scientific teaching diagrams, drawn and engraved by John Emslie on geology, geography, astronomy and natural philosophy. This hand-coloured engraved plate is taken from a series published and probably written by James Reynolds of 174 Strand in London in 1850-1860 in response to the popular demand for information on developments taking place in science and engineering as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Superbly illustrated images with a related text were presented loose in a portfolio so that they could be passed around a class or lecture room or used as posters.

Splendid things. 

Cars and Trucks
. A Little Golden Book, Illustrated by Richard Scarry. Golden Press, New York. 1951. Golden Books were jointly produced by Simon & Shuster, New York, and Western Publishing Company, Inc., Racine Wisconsin. 

Richard Scarry’s straightforward book for children presents plenty of visual data about vehicles. For our purposes we might want a little more information, but perhaps not a great deal more. Gentle, pleasant and witty, for very young children. The best Golden Books put out by Western in the 1950s and 60s are much admired by graphic connoisseurs. The visual strategies involved in these pictures are quite sophisticated, but so easy to overlook! For example, who is on the bus? How do I know?

(In case you're wondering, I am the man getting on the bus. That's my wife Lori in the snazzy A-line yellow coat, suddenly taller. We have two boys, a great deal bigger than that now. Danny, teaching Chinese + ESL and coaching deep in the wilds of Pennsylvania; Andrew, moving-image maven in Manhattan [working] and Brooklyn [living.] As for me: mighty sharp green hat, izzn't it?)

Toot Whistle Plunk & Boom, directed by C. August Nichols and Ward Kimball. Walt Disney Studios, 1953. Included as bonus material on the DVD edition of Fantasia 2000. 

The Disney studios produced a variety of informational shorts, including notably this one and Our Friend the Atom (1956). Toot Whistle won the Academy Award for best animated short in 1953, and deservedly so. The film provides a concise history of music by using cavemen as sonic explorers. The explication of the four basic groups of instruments is direct, clear, funny and accurate. (The film is marred by some racial stereotyping–particularly the visual tropes of blackface minstrelsy–risible now, unobjectionable to [majority] tastes in the 1950s.) 


Keep scrolling down for animation stills. 

John Emslie, designer. The Longitude. Instructional card, for classroom sharing. Published by Reynolds & Sons. London, circa 1850. 

Opening title sequence shot (Cinemascope proportions), Toot Whistle Plunk & Boom, animated short Walt Disney Studios, directed by Ward Kimball and Charles A. Nichols, 1953. 

John Emslie, illustrator/engraver. Diagram of Meteorology: Displaying the Various Phenomena of the Atmosphere. (Extensive textual content on reverse of card. London, 1846. 

Richard Scarry, Title Page, Cars and Trucks, 1951. 

Snazzy hat + jacket, no? Lovely coat as well. 

Scarry, Boarding the Bus, Cars and Trucks, 1951. 

Scarry, Ladies at the Grocery Store, Cars and Trucks. In the heyday of postwar affluence. Enjoy while it lasts, people. 

Richard Scarry, Dumping Coal to Subterranean Coal Rooms and Furnaces, Cars and Trucks. Not that long ago, folks. I remember a coal chute in my grandparents' house. 

John Emslie, Transparent Solar System. 

John Emslie, detail, Transparent Solar System. Note that the colored sun and planets or conveyed trough translucent colored papers. When you hold card up to the light, the planets glow. 

Toot Whistle, classroom shot with Professor Owl. 

Toot Whistle, cavemen discover musical instrument categories. 

Toot Whistle, Jazz club interior. 

Toot Whistle, Blackface minstrelsy quotation, (regrettable).