The Very First Coloring Book, The Little Folks’ Painting Book (Circa 1879)

The_Little_Folks_Paint_Book

Funny how not that long ago coloring books were considered the exclusive domain of children. How times have changed. If you are the sort of adult who unwinds with a big box of Crayolas and pages of mandalas or outlines of Ryan Gosling, you owe a debt of gratitude to the McLoughlin Brothers and illustrator Kate Greenaway.

First Coloring Book 1

Their Little Folks’ Painting Book burst onto the scene in around 1879 with such fun-to-color outline engravings as “The Owl’s Advice,” “A Flower Fairy,” and “Little Miss Pride,” each accompanied by nursery rhymes and stories. The abundance of mob caps, pinafores, and breeches are of a piece with Greenaway’s enduring takes on nursery rhymes, though grown up manual dexterity seems almost mandatory given the tiny patterns and other details.

First Coloring Book 2

Seeing as how there was no precedent, the publishers of the world’s first coloring book went ahead and filled in the frontispiece so that those tackling the other hundred drawings would know what to do. (Hint: Stay inside the lines and don’t get too creative with skin or hair color.)

First Coloring Book 3

Also note: the copy represented here has been carefully hand-colored by the previous owners, with one contributing some exuberant scribbles in pencil. See the full book, and download it in various formats, at Archive.org.

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