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Dominique Lerch

Children images in the 19th century, an art to be rediscovered

Le Temps des médias n°21, Hiver 2013/2014, p. 10-23.


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Printed on wood or lithographic stone these images illustrated a text or a song, and were sometimes designed to be later colored. In the 19th century, printed in Épinal, Montbéliard, Metz or Wissenbourg, they were meant for children and kept under censorship. A few of them were produced by the Decker brothers in Montbéliard, but in Metz, Pont-à-Mousson or Wissenbourg, they occupied a quarter or a third of the catalogues. However a number of differences remained between them. Whereas in Metz they were rather playful things, in Pont-à-Mousson they illustrated books and in Wissenbourg were used for teaching purposes. Besides, some of them were religious keepsakes given to children for their first catholic communion or for their protestant confirmation. Our study lists and analyzes all their different themes and mentions the official regulations under which they were published. Besides remanent popular themes such as No credit given here, or Who’s wearing the trousers, religious icons and prayers such as those in use in the Middle Ages, most of the production was only meant for children. When fairy tales and textbooks appeared, published by Parisian editors, images fought for survival in commercial advertisements in Épinal or public house posters in Wissenbourg, but their time was definitely over.

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