8vo (182 x 116 mm). ,103,  pp. Additional engraved title by Peter Sluiter, engraved portrait of the artist by Sluiter after vander Sys, and 51 large etchings in the text, of which 47 by Luyken and four (pp. 73, 79, 83 and 101) begun by Luyken and completed by Sluiter. Publisher’s advertisement on last page. Some light discoloration, a few small marginal fingerstains, tiny marginal tears in ff. C4 and C5. Later parchment over stiff boards (slightly soiled, outer half of front free endpaper cut away). ***
First Edition of one of the artist-poet’s rarest and most delightful emblem books, illustrated with 51 etchings, most depicting children engaged in play.
Luyken’s emblematic etchings, printed on the rectos with his own short poems, and accompanied by selected biblical passages printed on the facing versos, portray the span of a human lifetime allegorically, through the pastimes of children. In these beautiful scenes of everyday life Luyken portrayed his usual tall, slender adult figures, of mothers, nursewives, parents, neighbors, beggars and onlookers, fully absorbed by the activities of the children in their midst, whether newborn infants, toddlers having tantrums, or older children playing. In the latter group the grown-ups recede completely to the background. Children spin tops, run with pinwheels, blow bubbles, play with dolls and doll-houses, ride hobby-horses, toot on flutes, bang drums, play knucklebones, hopscotch, and golf (a Low Countries game), fly kites, practice archery, and throw slings. Echoing or prefiguring the theme of play, the engraved title shows two women (the fates?), one holding a large magnifying glass, engaged in discussion, while at their feet six children play; a scene of kite-flying occupies the background, and at the foot are emblems of learning and diversion: a violin, a primer, shells, a rattle, a spinning top, and a bow.
More than an idealized childhood, Luyken portrays real life: between games the children cry, pray, go to school, are bathed and put to bed, are scolded or birched for naughtiness, depart for their apprenticeships, become hard-working adults and parents themselves, and finally return whence they came, in the final peaceful deathbed scene. Filling out the backgrounds of both interior and outdoor tableaux are glimpses or full-blown miniature cityscapes of Amsterdam churches, houses, plazas and canals under wide Dutch skies. The first dozen etchings show infancy and babyhood. Opening with a swaddled newborn, the scenes of infant care, the baby’s first feeding, a one-year-old testing her legs in a wheeled walker, a slightly more adept peer waddling along in a leash held by her mother, and another baby delighting in a toy-filled carved wooden “playing stool,” surrounded by doting relatives, reveal a pre-industrial society in which children and child-rearing were taken seriously, and a country whose children are still rated “The Happiest Kids in the World.”
The plates are here in their rare first appearance, in fine impressions. The register of the copperplates with the letterpress text is flawed in places, usually because the printer did not leave enough room for the engraving.
This last illustrated masterpiece by Luyken appeared after his death, on April 5th 1712, and the copious preliminary matter, which opens with a dedicatory poem from the author-artist to his grandson, includes an unsigned life of Luyken and laudatory poems by various writers. This first edition, of which OCLC and NUC list no copies in American libraries, was followed by numerous reprints.
Landwehr, Emblem and Fable Books, 3rd edition (1988) 516; Van Eeghen and van der Kellen, Het werk van Jan en Casper Luyken (1905), II: 443, pp. 730-34. Cf. Thieme-Becker 23: 488-9 (counting this among Luyken’s best works); The Children’s World of Learning, part 7, 3842 (1749 edition). Item #4106