A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible,
or, Select Passages in the Old and
New Testaments, Represented with
Emblematical Figures, for the
Amusement of Youth.
Worcester: Isaiah Thomas, 1788
Rare Book & Special Collections
A touchstone of eighteenth-century American book illustration,
this "curious" children's Bible contains nearly five hundred woodcuts
made by American artists. The most ambitious woodcut book produced
in America up to that time, it is one of the sixty-five children's
book titles produced by the pioneer publisher of children's literature
and preeminent early American printer Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831),
who had learned the art of engraving while apprenticed in his youth
to the Boston printer Zechariah Fowle. Only four copies of this
remarkable piece of early Americana exist today.
A hieroglyphic Bible replaces some of the words of the text with
pictures in an attempt to tell a story in a direct, simple, and
interesting way. Such Bibles became very popular in the late eighteenth
century as an easy means of teaching the Scripture to the young.
In his preface to this volume, Thomas offers this first American
hieroglyphic Bible, more extensively illustrated than its English
prototype, as not only a pleasing method of teaching Bible lessons
to children, but as "an easy Way of leading them on in Reading."
Printed in Worcester, Massachusetts, the book was inscribed by
its first owner, "Enoch Brooks' Book, Princeton, March 13th, 1789."
It is now in the Library's Early American Imprint Collection. English
precursors and nineteenth-century American editions are found in
the Bible Collection, a representative sampling of nearly fifteen
hundred early editions and rare issues of Bibles in numerous languages.