chapter  3
Wordless Picturebooks
Pages 66

A signifi cant number of the artists’ books discussed in the previous chapter are wordless books that could also have been examined in this chapter, including all of Warja Lavater’s accordion books and Iela and Enzo Mari’s picturebooks, as well as many works by Bruno Munari and Katsumi Komagata. With the exception of a few relatively rare artists’ books often published for bibliophiles, the majority of wordless picturebooks prior to 1970 tend to be educational books with an explicit pedagogical purpose. An early French example, published by Nathan in 1902, bears the descriptive title Trente histoires en images sans paroles à raconter par les petits (Thirty stories in images without words for children to tell). Most wordless books of this type present sequences of images intended to introduce children to narrative by inviting them to formulate what is happening in a series of events. Jacqueline Danset-Léger rightly points out that the aesthetic element is sacrifi ced to meaning in these wordless books, which she feels later infl uenced books published in the highly regarded Père Castor series created by Paul Faucher, in 1931, for Flammarion.1 This infl uence can be seen notably in the “histoires en images” books, such as the well-known Dutch-born illustrator Gerda Muller’s Histoires en 4 images (Stories in 4 images, 1967), in which a short narrative is told in four equal-sized, wordless, horizontal panels per page. A number of critics point out that these early wordless picturebooks are generally presented as books from which the text has been removed with the expectation that it will be restored by readers, who are encouraged to verbalize the story.2 In some cases, a pre-existing text is actually eliminated. In How Picturebooks Work, Maria Nikolajeva and Carole Scott mention a Russian picturebook, titled Picture Stories (1958), in which

the short verses by Daniil Kharms and other poets were removed in some Russian editions of the book because the visual narrative of Nikolai Radlov’s illustrations is suffi ciently clear on its own.3