The First Picture Book

The First Picture Book by Mary Steichen Martin cover, dark blue text on a blue background

Cover of The First Picture Book

By Mary Steichen Martin, Harcourt Brace and Co., 1930

The First Picture Book

Written and Photographed by Mary Steichen Martin and Edward Steichen

New York, Harcourt, Brace & Co., Inc., 1930

7.25" x 8.5"

Kerlan Collection, Children's Literature Research Collections

University of Minnesota Libraries

Edward Steichen created the photographs for this book for two-year-olds at the prompting of his daughter, Mary Steichen Martin. A visit to the Bank Street nursery school had made her an ardent believer in Lucy Sprague Mitchell's theory that the very young are "little empiricists" who live intensely in the world of their immediate surroundings. Just as the "unit blocks" pictured here were designed to offer such children "open-ended" play experiences, the left-hand pages of the book were kept text-free, the better for parent and child to improvise their own commentary. Other Steichen subjects include a clock, a telephone, and a pair of socks—everyday objects later reprised in the Great Green Room of Goodnight Moon.


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