A Book for Boys and Girls
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
Licensed and entered according to order.
L O N D O N,
Printed for, and sold by, R. Tookey,
at his Printing House in St. Christopher's Court,
in Threadneedle Street, behind the Royal Exchange, 1701.
First published thirteen years after John Bunyan's death.
ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR.
ome degree of mystery hangs over these Divine Emblems for children, and many years' diligent researches have not enabled me completely to solve it. That they were written by Bunyan, there cannot be the slightest doubt.
'Manner and matter, too, are all his own.'
But no book, under the title of Divine Emblems, is mentioned in any catalogue or advertisements of Bunyan's works, published during his life; nor in those more complete lists printed by his personal friends, immediately after his death. In all these lists, as well as in many advertisement, both before, and shortly after Mr. Bunyan's death, a little book for children is constantly introduced, which, judging from the title, must have been similar to, if not the same as, these Emblems; but the Editor has not been able to discover a copy of the first edition, although every inquiry has been made for it, both in the United Kingdom and America. It was advertised in 1688, as Country Rhymes for Children, upon seventy-four things. It is also advertised, in the same year, as A Book for Boys and Girls, or Country Rhymes for Children, price 6d. In 1692, it is included in Charles Doe's catalogue table of all Mr. Bunyan's books, appended to The Struggler for their preservation, No. 36; Meditations on seventy-four things, published in 1685, and not reprinted during the author's life. In Charles Doe's second catalogue of all Mr. Bunyan's books, appended to the first edition of the Heavenly Footman, March 1698, it is No. 37.
A Book for Boys and Girls, or Country Rhymes for Children, in verse, on seventy-four things. This catalogue describes every work, word for word, as it is in the several title pages. In 1707 it had reached a third edition, and was 'ornamented with cuts'; and the title is altered to A Book for Boys and Girls, or Temporal Things Spiritualized, with cuts. In 1720, it was advertised, 'price, bound, 6d.' In Keach's Glorious Lover, it is advertised by Marshall, in 12mo. price 1s. In 1724, it assumed its present title, and from that time was repeatedly advertised as Divine Emblems, or Temporal Things Spiritualized, fitted for the use of boys and girls, adorned with cuts.
By indefatigable exertions, my excellent friend and brother collector of old English bibles, James Dix, Esq., Bristol, has just discovered and presented to me the second edition of this very rare little volume, in fine preservation, from which it appears, that in 1701, the title page was altered from Country Rhymes and Meditations, to A Book for Boys and Girls, or Temporal Things Spiritualized. It has no cuts, but, with that exception, it contains exactly the same subjects as the subsequent editions published under the more popular title of Divine Emblems.
The only difficulty that remains is to discover seventy-four meditations in the forty-nine Emblems. This may be readily done, if the subjects of meditation are drawn out. Thus, the first emblem contains meditations on two things, the Barren Fig-tree, and God's Vineyard. So the second has a meditation on the Lark and the Fowler, and another on the comparison between the Fowler and Satan. Upon this plan, the volume contains exactly seventy-four meditations.
Under the title of Divine Emblems, it has passed through a multitude of editions, and many thousand copies have been circulated. It was patronized in those early efforts of the Religious Tract Society, which have been so abundantly blessed in introducing wholesome food to the young, instead of the absurd romances which formerly poisoned the infant and youthful mind.
Among these numerous editions, two deserve special notice. The first of these was published in 1757, 'on a curious paper, and good letter, with new cuts.' It has a singular preface, signed J. D., addressed 'to the great Boys, in folio, and the little ones in coats.' The first eight pages are occupied with a dissertation on the origin of language, perhaps arising from a line in the dialogue between a sinner and spider, 'My name entailed is to my creation.' In this preface, he learnedly attempts to prove that language was the gift of God by revelation, and not a gradual acquirement of man as his wants multiplied. The other remarkable edition was published about 1790. It is, both the text and cuts, printed from copperplate engravings, very handsomely executed. This is an honour conferred upon very few authors; nor was it ever conferred upon one more worthy the highest veneration of man than is the immortal allegorist.
The number of editions which have been printed of these little engaging poems, is a proof of the high estimation in which they have been held for nearly one hundred and seventy years; and the great rarity of the early copies shows the eager interest with which they have been read by children until utterly destroyed.
The cuts were at first exceedingly coarse and rude, but were much improved in the more modern copies. Those to Mason's edition are handsome. The engraver has dressed all his actors in the costume of the time of George the Third; the women with hooped petticoats and high head dresses; clergymen with five or six tier wigs; men with cocked hats and queues; and female servants with mob caps. That to Emblem Fifteen, upon the sacraments, is peculiarly droll; the artist, forgetting that the author was a Baptist, represents a baby brought to the font to be christened! and two persons kneeling before the body of our Lord!