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Crossroads & Connections: Evolution of Art for Children

By The National Library of Israel

Published Apr 26, 2023

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Collection

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The Book of Things, Germany and Palestine, 1922

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The Book of Things was written by Haim Bialik, one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew poetry, and was his first book of poems for children. It was also the first title published by Ophir publishing house in 1922, with sixteen of Tom Seidmann-Freud’s illustrations, each facing a short poem describing the image in Hebrew rhyme. Bialik’s poetic genius was matched by Seidmann-Freud’s talents as an illustrator. Her work for children is considered one of the pinnacles of twentieth-century German art, and The Book of Things rivaled the finest European children’s literature of its day. The Book of Things, along with additional Ophir publications, attests to a magnificent pioneering experiment in the history of Hebrew picture books.

In 1921, Bialik (1873–1934) fled Odessa, the center of Hebrew culture in Russia. Resettling in Berlin, he met the illustrator Tom Seidmann-Freud (the niece of Sigmund Freud) and her husband, Jacob Seidmann, who had founded a German publishing house for children’s books. In light of the spectacular illustrations and high quality of printing, Bialik partnered with them to establish Ophir, a Hebrew publishing house for children’s books, based on the revolutionary principle that, in Bialik’s words, “the illustrations are primary, and the text is secondary.” About two years after the publication of The Book of Things, Bialik immigrated to the Land of Israel and continued his work there.

 

“Carousel” (Seharhoret), from The Book of Things (Sefer ha-devarim) by Haim Nahman Bialik, illustrations by Tom Seidmann-Freud. Ophir Publishers, Berlin and Jerusalem, 1922. 8° 31 V 1211.  

Photography by Ardon Bar-Hama.

 

Click here to return to the full Crossroads & Connections: Collections of the National Library of Israel digital exhibition on Kolture.

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Founded in Jerusalem in 1892, the National Library of Israel (NLI) serves as Israel's preeminent research library

Reflections

Click here to visit the exhibition resource page to learn more and to browse accompanying lesson plans, webinars, and videos, about the treasures in this exhibition.

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