State Library of South AustraliaState Library of South Australia

Orbis sensualium pictus ...

Catalogue record

Creator: Comenius, Johann Amos, 1592-1670

Place of Creation: London

Published by John Sprint

Date of creation : 1705

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Format : Book

Donated by Mrs D Mortlock through the Friends of the State Library of South Australia 1979-80

Orbis Pictus Sensualium (The visible world) by Johann Amos Comenius was the first true illustrated book for children. Published in 1658 and intended to teach Latin, it did this with illustrations in which the figures were numbered and the names were given in Latin and the reader's native tongue, initially German. But the book and its concept proved popular and it was translated into English in 1659 and into other languages as well.

The textbook is divided into 150 chapters dealing with inanimate nature, botanics, zoology, religion, humans and their activities. Various trades are depicted, along with the activities in the fields and the many implements employed in these tasks. It was altogether an attractive compendium of knowledge and no doubt found use well beyond its primary purpose of a book to teach the Latin language, still at that time the international language.

Johann Comenius was an educator, scientist, writer and a Moravian protestant bishop. He was also a religious exile from the Counter Reformation and found refuge variously in Poland, Sweden, England, Hungary and the Netherlands. Janua linguarum reserata was his first publication in 1631: this may have resulted in the beginning of his exile, or have sprung from the exile itself. It is unsure which happened first. The book did bring him fame during this period. He published other materials, but is probably best known today for his Orbis Pictus Sensualium in which for the first time the value of illustration as an aid to learning was realized, and he is considered one of the fathers of modern education.


Comenius was approached to be the first President of Harvard University, but declined this honour. The Comenius Medal, was established in 1992, the 400th anniversary of his birth and is one of UNESCO's most prestigious awards. It honours outstanding achievements in the fields of education research and innovation.


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