Hendrik Willem Van Loon, author of “The Story of Mankind” & winner of the very first Newbery Medal

Hendrik Willem Van Loon was a Dutch-American historian, journalist, and award-winning children’s book author. From the 1910s to his death in 1944, he wrote dozens of books, illustrating them himself. The Story of Mankind is his best-known work; it won the first-ever Newbery Medal in 1922 for an outstanding contribution to children’s literature!

The Story of Mankind was updated by Van Loon in subsequent editions and has continued to be updated, first by his son and later by other historians. In the book, Van Loon explains how he selected what to include (and what not to include) by subjecting all materials to the question: Did the person or event in question perform an act without which the entire history of civilization would have been different? Pretty strict rules!

These gorgeous prints are from a 1932 edition, illustrated by the author. I love how spare the illustrations are – just a few colors, and sometimes only a few dramatic lines. I was also a little surprised to see he had included the story of Buddha (that’s one of my favorite images below) – this guy was really ahead of his time! I wonder what the most recently updated edition looks like…

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About redbudart

I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, just outside of Portland, Oregon. My usual interests are cooking, wine, horticulture, art, and old books, but lately I've been obsessed with saving for a piece of land, so I can practice sustainability and learn to live as close to the land as possible, and then help others to do the same. To relax I listen to Dharma talks. Namaste!
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