Japanese | English
From time immemorial human beings drew pictures which evolved into
pictographs and then developed over time into signs of increasing
complexity. Pictures were sometimes used as objects of worship, and some
recounted the story of humankind itself. At first disseminated through
copying by hand and then by printing, this record of humanity extending
back over thousands of years forms the current of all cultures. The Picture
Book Gallery at the International Library of Children's
Literature considers the history of picture books part of this long
human record. The Gallery presents, however, an exhibition focusing on
the relatively short period of the last century and a half during which
picture books were actually put into the hands of children.
The ILCL's first special exhibit, "The Picture Book As Stage," introduces the world of British picture books of the latter half of the nineteenth century. At that time it became possible to produce beautiful polycolor woodblock prints, and illustrated magazines and picture books emerged as a significant part of people's daily lives in Britain. British wood engraver Edmund Evans paved the way for a new epoch in picture book production by seeking out illustrators suited to the genre and encouraged and fostering their talents. Trained by a student of Thomas Bewick, who was a late eighteenth-century innovator of the white-line engraving technique, Evans distinguished himself in the art of color printing, creating picture books as popular educational goods. It was a time when British society was ready to give children something enjoyable to read.
Shown at this exhibition are picture books representing the era when the curtain of the picture book stage opened with tales and rhymes passed down from generation to generation in Britain over the centuries. Introduced here are the three picture book artists whose work Edmund Evans admired most: Randolph Caldecott (1846-86), whose distinctive line drawings brought stories alive; Kate Greenaway (1846-1901), who portrayed children forever young playing in enchanted landscapes; and Walter Crane (1845-1915), a pioneer designer who brought a sense of art and beauty into the daily lives of ordinary people. These artists founded the picture book genre in the special historical setting of economic prosperity following the Industrial Revolution, of the flowering of new art movements, and of innovation in woodblock printing technology.
In the exhibit, the picture book pages open one by one as the story is read. Sometimes the words are sung, just as mothers and grandmothers read and sang to children while showing them picture books in bygone days. The narration is in English, but we believe that children of any country, hearing the narration and the singing while looking at the pictures, will soon gain an overall grasp of the content, and that it will impart to them the precious experience of natural encounter with a different language. The Japanese captions that appear on each page are not so much translations of the English text but tools to help understand the outline of the story.
Through the Picture Book Gallery the International Library of Children's Literature will continue to launch projects designed to link Japanese children to the world overseas and lead them to the timeless treasures of human wisdom and knowledge.