Brain Pickings

The Little Golden Book of Words: A Rare Illustrated Gem from 1948


Places to go, things to do, people to meet, and other illustrated essentials of daily living.

The other day, I came upon typography czar Jonathan Hoefler’s brilliant remix of a mysterious vintage children’s chart and Milton Glaser’s iconic Bob Dylan poster. Naturally, I set out to find the origins of the vintage gem. Imagine my delight, as a hopeless lover of vintage children’s books, in discovering that it came from The Little Golden Book of Words (UK; public library) — a rare out-of-print gem by Selma Lola Chambers, originally published in 1948. The charming vintage illustrations by Gertrude Elliott, covering such favorite children’s book subjects as numbers, people, animals, and the seasons, pair each small picture with the specific word it depicts to help young children form the essential associations between words and their pictorial representations. Revealed in equal measures are the era’s distinctive aesthetic sensibility and its dated cultural biases regarding gender norms and social expectations.

Sadly, like other gems from that era, this little treasure is long out of print — but you might be able to grab a used copy online or find it at your local library.

Thanks, Debbie

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