Chinese Illustrated Books


Before she catches sight of a waistcoated, watch-wearing rabbit popping down a hole, a drowsy Alice famously questions, “What is the use of a book…without pictures or conversations?” Mr. Lloyd E. Cotsen apparently agreed with Alice’s wisdom. Cotsen, a 1950 Princeton alumnus whose family library for his own kids seeded the Cotsen Children’s Library, made illustrated works the focus of this special collection of international and historical children’s materials.

“Linked Pictures” for All Ages

Among Chinese materials, which make up the largest non-English language collection at Cotsen, are more than 1400 heavily illustrated story books. The Chinese term for such books, particularly those with images on nearly every page, is lian huan hua (LHH, 连环画), literarily meaning “linked pictures.” LHH books were not born as children’s literature, but were intended to entertain all ages when the format took shape in Shanghai in the 1920s. China’s population was poorly educated during much of the twentieth century. Semi-literate adults relied upon visuals to comprehend stories and avidly consumed LHH, just as children did. When Italian journalist Gino Nebiolo travelled on a night train in China during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), he noticed that every passenger received a copy of LHH along with hot tea from the stewardess, and that workers, petty officials, and peasants were “all completely absorbed in their reading” (Nebiolo viii). (The modern urge to seek entertainment and distraction from handheld touch screens during any idle moment is not an invention by Apple, after all.) It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the “one-format-fits-all” model of print-entertainment began to disintegrate, owing to the steadily rising Chinese literacy rate, access to broadcast media, and the influence of Western- and Japanese-style “linked pictures” such as comic books and picture books.

The World Turned Upside Down (天翻地覆). 上海: 东亚书局, [19–] 13 x 15 cm. (Cotsen 31152) An early LHH work from the Republic of China.

Dated between the 1920s and 1940s, The World Turned Upside Down is one of the earliest LHH works held at the Cotsen Children’s Library. It is an illustrated story based on a Chinese creation myth. The publisher cleverly uses the cover to advertise its other LHH titles, which include Chinese mythology and folktales, kung fu stories, romance, and historical fiction, typical for early LHH works. Pre-1950 LHH copies are rare today, partly due to the ephemeral nature of flimsy paperbacks produced for the mass market, and partly due to recurring censorship campaigns launched by the Communist regime after 1950.

小旅客(1974) Little Passengers (小旅客) / adapted by Wang Tao; illustrated by Xu Ping (徐屏) and Lin Yixiang (林亦香). 浙江人民出版社, 1974. 60 pages; 11 x 13 cm. (Cotsen 74914)

One panel from LHH Little Passengers offers a close illustration of Nebiolo’s report. Dressed in then-fashionable military uniform, a fifth-grader reads an LHH story about the soldier Lei Feng to a little boy he meets on the train. LHH was arguably the most popular and accessible reading format for Chinese children until the mid-1980s and was frequently referenced in the text and images of children’s books.

Layout and Art Styles

The Cotsen collection offers plenty of examples to help us appreciate the diverse visual styles, text-image relationships, subject matter, and intended audiences of Chinese “linked-picture” books. The prevailing layout of LHH includes one image on every page, horizontally oriented, accompanied by a short text along one side of the panel. Because most LHH art comprises black line drawings, it is tempting to equate Chinese LHH with comic books. Unlike in Western comics and Japanese manga, though, conversation balloons are not a persistent component of Chinese LHH. In fact, the 1970s saw a tendency to do away with speech balloons, which were thought to ruin the integrity of the pictures (Fei 474). Compared with comic books familiar to the West and Japan, most Chinese LHH from the twentieth century rely more on text than on sequential art for storytelling. This particular style of “linked pictures” would eventually give way to comic books, characterized by a tighter complementary relation between the text and visuals, and color picture books, which are better suited for beginning readers.


The General Line for Socialist Construction: An Illustrated Libretto (总路线图画唱本). 上海: 上海人民美术出版社, 1958. 31 pages; 10 x 13 cm. (Cotsen 72229)

An LHH booklet on an adult palm.

Although the page size of LHH books varies widely, those produced during the heyday of the format are typically palm-sized, measuring in the neighborhood of four by five inches. Miniature-size LHH works, defined as under 10 centimeters tall, were clearly designed with young readers’ small hands in mind. As shown in another post "Fresh from China," some miniature books were thoughtfully constructed accordion style on thick paper to accommodate children’s limited motor skills.

Although LHH is most often associated with black line drawings printed on horizontal booklets, the umbrella term is inclusive of a wide array of visual and storytelling styles. Let’s showcase some examples.

A Little Iron Boy (小铁汉) / adapted by Lu Yuan; illustrated by Hu Zhenxiang. 上海: 春秋书社, 1953. 26 pages; 18 cm. (Cotsen 66253)

Part of a “Children’s Linked-Picture Story”(儿童连环图画故事) series, this title from early People’s Republic of China very much resembles beginning reader books found in today’s market. The brief text is thoughtfully printed in large font and with generous line spacing. Set in Tiên Lãng, Vietnam in the midst of the Indochina War, A Little Iron Boy is presented as a true biographical story of a ten-year-old Vietnamese boy who would rather endure torture than reveal the hiding place of three Viet Minh cadres to the French military.

One subgroup of LHH is movie spin-offs akin to what would be called “photonovels” in English. The format consists of film stills with captions, making it a most satisfactory proxy for moviegoing long before video tape players entered Chinese homes in the 1990s.

Lei Feng (雷锋) / adapted by Wen Piao. 北京: 中国电影出版社, 1965. 177 pages; 11 x 13 cm. (Cotsen 32682)

The booklet is based on a black-and-white 1963 movie by the same title. Lei Feng is the soldier hero whom the two boys are reading about during their train ride in the aforementioned Little Passengers. He has been featured in numerous LHH editions as a self-sacrificial role model.

放学以后(1972) After School (放学以后) / 上海电影制片厂《放学以后》摄制组编画. 上海: 上海人民出版社, 1972. 39 pages; 13 x 15 cm. (Cotsen 154541)

After School is a spin-off of a 1972 anime movie directed by Yan Dingxian (严定宪). In this bright-colored anime story, children battle against an old candy man’s evil attempt to corrupt the politically upbeat message of their jump-rope rhymes. Numerous children’s stories from the 1950s to the end of the Cultural Revolution pit politically precocious children against regressive adults. Quick to embrace new and revolutionary ideas, children in fiction and nonfiction accounts accomplish feats beyond their tender age: a breakthrough in agricultural experiments that have been dismissed by older peasants; detecting a former land-owner’s sabotage of the collective property of the commune; or facilitating the arrest of an anti-revolutionist who might even be an authority figure in the child’s own family.

The Old Bean’s Birthday Party (老豆儿过生日) / written by Wang Yaoying (王耀英); illustrated by Chen Qingzhi (陈清之). 上海: 少年儿童出版社, 1961. 21 unnumbered pages; 15 x 19 cm. (Cotsen 67992)

The Old Bean’s Birthday Party is a picture book that introduces the versatile industrial uses of soybeans. An elderly soybean is celebrating his birthday. His “offspring” (i.e., various soybean products) show up in all shapes, colors, and states of matter. From the left to right are: soybean oil, the elderly bean, a baby soybean, a soybean-based tire, soy sauce, soy milk, soy paint, and a bar of soap—an adorable and playful one at that. Imaginative and endearing anthropomorphic color images, text with pinyin phonetic guide, and relatively large page size make this book a friendlier offering for beginning readers than most LHH works.

Regretfully, many exquisitely illustrated picture books seem to have eluded critical attention and are little known today. Here are two examples.

Porridge for the Eighth Day of the Twelfth Moon (腊八粥) / by Wu Zhongxiong (吴仲熊). 成都: 四川人民出版社, 1980. 1 volume; 15 cm. (Cotsen 68245)

A folktale that explains how the Chinese custom of preparing a ceremonial congee dish on the eighth day of the twelfth moon originated.


The Legend of Sun Moon Lake (日月潭的传说) / text by Zeng Dehou; illustrated by Li Bangyao (李邦耀) and Cao Xiaoqiang (曹小强). 湖北人民出版社, 1981. 33 pages; 15 cm. (Cotsen 68250)

An adaptation of an aboriginal Taiwanese folktale that explains the origin of the famous Sun Moon Lake in Central Taiwan.

Where is My Inkstone (砚台呢) / text by Ji Hong (嵇鸿); illustrated by Chen Liping (陈力萍). 上海: 少年儿童出版社, 1957. 1 volume; 13 cm. (Cotsen 72188)

Where is My Inkstone is a humorous wordless picture book that portrays a sloppy boy’s frantic search for his inkstone, without which he cannot do his homework. By relying solely on visuals to narrate the plot, wordless picture books are the quintessential manifestation of “linked pictures” or “sequential art.”

Western-style comic books and strips make up a small portion of domestic LHH works.

Tibet Back to the Big Family of the Homeland (回到祖国大家庭的西藏) / illustrated by Rui Guangting. 北京: 北京书店, 1952. 4th ed. 28 pages; 19 cm. (Cotsen)

A cross between Chinese-style LHH and Western comics, this edition of Tibet Back to the Big Family of the Homeland is dated about one year after the People’s Liberation Army entered Lhasa on October 26, 1951. This informational book covers the geography, history, social life and customs, religion, politics, and current affairs of Tibet. It presents a warm and collaborative relationship between the new People’s Republic of China and religious leaders of Tibet. The 1959 Tibetan Uprising, which led to the fourteenth Dalai Lama’s exile to India, was still years away. Unlike the treacherous dissident he would later be portrayed as in Chinese official media, this Dalai Lama (upper-right panel) is simply introduced as Tibet’s religious and political leader, at an impressively young age of eighteen sui (meaning seventeen years old).

The Adventure of the King of Grossness (邋遢大王奇遇记) / text by Ling Shu (凌纾); illustrated by Yan Shanchun (阎善春), etc. 上海: 上海人民美术出版社, 1986. 102 pages; 19 cm. (Cotsen 154540)

Notice how dirty-looking the book cover of our copy appears? Well, the protagonist of this comic book is a boy nicknamed “the King of Grossness” for his shameless neglect of personal hygiene. We shudder to think what type of young readers this copy has attracted! The book is the basis of an immensely popular thirteen-episode anime show by the same title released in 1987.

For Instruction and Entertainment

In his classic Understanding Comics Scott McCloud (20) points out that comics have been recognized as an excellent communication tool. The following examples show how the format of “linked pictures” has been utilized for literacy education, political socialization, and information dissemination among the general Chinese population and among specialized audiences.

收音机(1958) The Radio (收音机) / adapted by Wang Huanwen and Da Wei; illustrated by Fan Zhiquan. 上海: 上海人民美术出版社, 1958. 45 pages; 11 x 13 cm. (Cotsen 32681)

The Radio is part of a Become Educated LHH series, which, according to an advertisement page at the end, uses simple language to help illiterate and semi-literate readers learn Chinese characters and advance literacy skills.

The General Line for Socialist Construction: An Illustrated Libretto (总路线图画唱本). 上海: 上海人民美术出版社, 1958. 31 pages; 10 x 13 cm. (Cotsen 72229)

A preoccupation with the literacy and education of the Chinese population is reflected in another title, also dated 1958. General Line paints a utopian picture of a prosperous China in the near future, promised by the “General Line for Socialist Construction” adopted by the Chinese Communist Party in May 1958. One page shows each member of a three-generation family being engaged in reading, music, art, and science. Notably, the grandma, who is dressed no differently than an elderly peasant woman, is playing the piano. In reality, the General Line policy heralded the reckless Great Leap Forward campaign and the massive famine of 1959-1961. To what degree should rosy pictures like these be held accountable for fanning people’s frenzy over what turned out to be a disastrous campaign?

中华人民共和国惩治反革命条例: 图解通俗本(1951)
Regulations of the People’s Republic of China for Punishment of Counter-Revolutionaries: A Popular Illustrated Edition (中华人民共和国惩治反革命条例: 图解通俗本). 上海: 华东人民出版社, 1951. 56 pages; 11 x 13 cm. (Cotsen 71295)

This title exemplifies perhaps the most sobering use of comic art. Published within three months of the enactment of “Regulations of the People’s Republic of China for Punishment of Counter-Revolutionaries,” it reprints all twenty-one articles of the ordinance, offers paraphrases in plain language and definitions of legal terms, and supplies visuals characteristic of political cartoons. The image above illustrates Article 3, which metes out death penalties or life imprisonment to those who “collaborate with imperialism and commit treason.” The colophon page indicates a staggering print run of 1.5 million copies. An LHH rendition of the first marriage law passed by the PRC in 1950 was also available by the same publisher.

防原子, 防化学, 防细菌常识(1971) Basic Knowledge on Defense Against Atomic Bombs, Chemical Warfare, and Germ Warfare (防原子、防化学、防细菌常识) / 沈阳部队”三防”宣传组编绘. 1971. 85 pages; 13 x 19 cm. (Cotsen 71509)

On a no less serious note, this LHH has been published by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to teach basic defense knowledge against atomic, chemical, and biological weaponry attacks. Its title page indicates the book as “training material for internal distribution,” meaning it should not be made publicly available. It is always a question how widely such semi-classified “internal publications” actually circulated. Bibliographical records suggest that the Office of the Deputy Chief of the General Staff for Intelligence, Ministry of National Defense in Taiwan managed to procure another LHH that trains militia on defending against the same types of attacks. In 1972, when the Chinese and Taiwanese governments remained in a state of war, the latter’s intelligence office made a facsimile of that book but labelled a derogatory "Communist bandits’" to the beginning of the title (Guo fang bu).

高举毛泽东思想伟大红旗, 彻底批判"十万个为什么"漫画集 A Cartoon Collection (高举毛泽东思想伟大红旗, 彻底批判”十万个为什么”漫画集) / 少年儿童出版社批判文艺黑线联络站. [not before 1966] 29 pages; 13 x 19 cm. (Cotsen 70172)

This LHH is a collection of satirical cartoons that criticize One Hundred Thousand Whys, a wildly successful children’s popular science series published by the Shanghai-based Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House in the early 1960s. Mathematician Zhang Yitang, who was born in 1955 in Shanghai, mentions the series as his favorite reading from childhood in an interview (“Mei” 1). The best-selling series came under harsh condemnation and was banned during the Cultural Revolution for allegedly sending feudal, capitalist, and subversive messages to youth. The LHH allows us to witness how, even in the case of lively children’s books on science (a seemingly neutral political zone), there was no escape from the snare of power struggles and ideological wars.

“Linked Pictures” for Speakers of Other Tongues

Chinese LHH have been released in multiple languages to reach an international audience and ethnic minority groups. During the Maoist era, the aim was not to maximize profit, but to spread Communist and revolutionary gospels to the non-Chinese world.

Sister Double Happiness = 双喜嫂(1977)

Sister Double Happiness = 双喜嫂 / written by Kiangsu People’s Publishing House; drawings by Ku Tseng-ping (顾曾平). Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1977. 95 pages; 18 cm. (Cotsen 99597; photo curtesy of the RBSC Photoduplication Unit)

An English translation of a Chinese LHH story set during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).

Un Campesino y Su Caballo = 老乡的马 / text by Lu Bing (鲁兵); illustrated by Liu Siung (刘熊). Pekín: Ediciones en Lenguas Extranjeras, 1962. 2a. ed. 18 pages; 19 cm. (Cotsen unprocessed)

A Spanish translation of a Chinese LHH story, which is also available in an English edition titled The Peasant and His Horse.

Un Campesino y Su Caballo = 老乡的马(1962)
Ley Fengneng Balaleⱪ Xaƣe = 雷锋的少年时代(1974)

Ley Fengneng Balaleⱪ Xaƣe = 雷锋的少年时代 / adapted by Liw Hanzhen (刘含真); illustrated by Qian Guysun (钱贵荪). 民族出版社, 1974. 55 pages; 12 cm. (Cotsen unprocessed)

A Kazakh translation of a biographical story about the childhood and adolescence of the aforementioned hero Lei Feng. The Latin alphabet used in the book has become obsolete and been replaced by the Arabic script currently used by the Kazakhs in China.

Hameleon = 变色龙 / by Chen Zunsan (陈尊三). 民族出版社, 1980. 30 pages; 13 cm. (Cotsen unprocessed)

A Uyghur edition of Anton Chekhov’s short story “A Chameleon” in color LHH. The Uyghurs are among the top five largest Chinese ethnic minority groups. Likewise, the Latin alphabet used in the book is now obsolete. The Uyghurs in China have also adopted the Arabic script for their writing system.

Hameleon = 变色龙 (1980)

Travelling Children's Library (1949)
Travelling Children’s Library / photographed by Sam Tata in Shanghai, 1949. (Image source:

This photo shows an open-air rental stall for LHH, where readers could hire the booklets at a cheap price. The renting business model was highly successful in maximizing the accessibility of LHH for the poorest consumers. Upon close examination, the title “Travelling Children’s Library” is a misnomer for the photo. Engrossed in their reading are a little girl, an adolescent boy, and an adult, plus a curious toddler who is likely tagging along with his big sister, getting a healthy dose of interest in reading for fun.

The modern multiplication of publication formats, broadcast media, and digital communication tools means that the Chinese will not return to a time when linked-picture booklets served as the prevailing platform to inform and entertain the general populace. Given their immense popularity and wide influence, LHH open a vivid window into the literature and art, childhood, social life, and political dynamics of twentieth-century China. Cotsen’s LHH collection has not been systematically reorganized, but the bibliographical records of most titles can be located by keyword searches for “comic books” or “lian huan hua,” with a limit by language to Chinese.


Fei, Shengfu费声福. “谈谈连环画的图文并茂.” 中国连环画艺术文集. Eds. 林敏 & 赵素行. 太原: 山西人民出版社, 1982/1987. 470-475.

Guo fang bu Qing bao can mou ci chang shi國防部 情報參謀次長室. 共匪民兵”三打””三防”知識畫冊. 臺北市: 情報參謀次長室, 1972.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. 1st HarperPerennial ed. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994.

“Mei li xin ling美丽心灵: 访数学家张益唐.” 小枇杷 3.3 (May 2015): 1.

Nebiolo, Gino. “Introduction.” The People’s Comic Book: Red Women’s Detachment, Hot on the Trail and Other Chinese Comics. Tran. Frances Frenaye. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, 1973. vii-xvi.

(Edited by Miranda Marraccini)

Traveling the World via a Board Game…

Imagine getting paid to play with children’s books and sometimes even with children’s games.  As a cataloger, I get to “play with” them, in a sense — but it’s not quite the same as “playing” games, I assure you — and I usually learn something and almost always enjoy doing it too: “instruction with delight,” as John Newbery famously phrased it.

This all ran though my mind while cataloging a new Cotsen acquisition: a French board-game adaptation of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, titled: Le Voyage Autour du Monde en 80 Jours: d’apres le Roman de Jules Verne: Jeu de Société. 

Game Board for "Le Voyage Autour du Monde en 80 jours : D’apres le Roman de Jules Verne : Jeu de Société"

Game Board for “Le Voyage Autour du Monde en 80 jours : D’apres le Roman de Jules Verne : Jeu de Société” by Roches Frères  (Paris, ca. 1880?)  – Cotsen new acquisition.

Cotsen’s version of the game-board isn’t itself titled, but the caption title I used to catalog the item comes from the accompanying four-page printed instruction and rule booklet. Roches Frères has added the imprint of their Paris printing house on the bottom left of the board, in the white margin, but it’s a little hard to see in the above photo (a better view is in a photo below).  I’m still looking for information about the Paris firm Roches Frères, but the they seem to have been active in Paris from the 1880s through 1900, based on the dates of other of their publications cataloged by other libraries.  After 1900, another Roches Frères published in Avignon until 1911 or so — maybe the firm moved? (Research also turned up a third, earlier firm named “Roches Frères,” this one publishing in New Orleans from about 1813 into the early 1820s, presumably a different entity altogether, but so far I can’t say so definitely).

"tres Amusant"... Rules of the game

“Très amusant”… Description and rules of the game.

Cotsen’s game-board seems to be one of at least 8 different versions of the game issued by various publishers between 1874 and 1928, an apparent testament to successful sales  and ongoing popularity with children and/or grown-ups.  (Verne’s novel first appeared in print in 1872.) With children’s books and games, it’s always hard to know how much items’ sales connote their actual appeal to children themselves, since adults were generally the ones making the purchases.  But I think a 50+ year run of publication and re-publication certainly suggests a popular item!  Cotsen’s game board seems to be a relatively early version, based on the form of the title, the printer’s dates, and particularly a chronology of versions posted online.1

Unfortunately, the Cotsen copy of the the game arrived without the illustrated box it originally came in, six little hand-painted lead playing pieces (modeled on characters in the novel: Phileas Fogg, his servant Passepartout, etc.), currency tokens, dice, and dice cup. (Dice thus make a somewhat unusual appearance in a children’s game of this era, in lieu of a teetotum spinner — dice generally being shunned in children’s activities games for being associated with gambling and the unsavory world of vice.  Perhaps this is because the mainspring of book’s plot is a bet?)  But Princeton’s Graphic Arts Collection has a later (ca. 1915) version of the game that’s essentially complete, accompanied by an advertising flyer, which curator Julie Melby has blogged about.  Both versions of the game board are the same size: fully opening out to 49 x 58 cm.

The games afoot... The game board first spaces, showing Fogg in London.

The game’s afoot!
The game board’s first spaces, showing Fogg in London (with Roche Frères’ imprint below).

But let’s get back to the game itself!  True to Jules Verne’s original story, the players begin in London, appropriately enough with space number 1 depicting Phileas Fogg (here called “Phogg”) and space 3 the scene where Fogg bets £20,000 (a colossal sum then!) with fellow-members of the Reform Club that he can completely travel around the world within 80 days.  With that, he’s off on his trip leaving the familiar world of London and fashionable Saville Row (space 4) behind…


Through the Alps and a view of Mt. Vesuvius

In the game, players of the game race to be first to complete Fogg’s journey, the places and people encountered shown here in illustrations, within the numbered spaces and accompanying graphics, all brightly chromolithographed.  First, it’s through France and Italy and onto a steamer across the Mediterranean, depicted by the nineteenth-century steam locomotive racing through a tunnel under the Alps (both new technological marvels then), a contemporary steam-ship, and a depiction of the Bay of Naples, with a smoking Mt. Vesuvius in the background.  Vesuvius, whose spectacular volcanic eruption in 79 AD buried Pompeii and Herculaneum, also erupted some 14 times during the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, and it often figures prominently in children’s literature of this period.  This is due to a combination of factors, I think: the pure visual appeal of depicting an erupting volcano in hand-colored or color-processed illustrations, then relatively cutting-edge book technologies, the fascination that such volatile forces of nature hold for a child (or adult!) reader, the frequent attention paid to natural history in educational children’s materials during this period (and we’ll see another instance of this in another recently-cataloged work to be discussed in the following blog posting), as well as the way that volcanoes and natural disasters displayed the power of fate, human frailty, and the power of God or supernatural forces to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century readers.

Into Egypt

Suez Canal, Port Said, and Aden

Middle Eastern people

Middle Eastern people

Next, it’s through the Suez Canal — then, having recently opened in 1869 — via a canal steamer and on to the ports of Port Said, Egypt, and Aden, in what’s now Yemen, via what look like smaller and smaller sail-powered craft. Things are getting a little more adventurous… Along with scenery, the people Fogg encountered on the journey are also presented on game spaces in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the terrifically-popular illustrated European travel literature of this period, such as David Roberts’ Travels in Egypt & the Holy Land.  The emphasis on visual artistic depictions of “exotic” places and people in the game — and in children’s literature generally — reminds us just how new and exciting such depictions were to Europeans at this time, something it’s easy to forget in our era of visual-media-on-demand in a world that seems to have “shrunk” in many ways.

Traveling through India...

Traveling through India…

On to Singapore and Hong Kong...

On to Singapore and Hong Kong…

As the players move along the board, they see more of the sights that Verne had Fogg encounter: India, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Indian rajahs, magicians… Modes of transportation also reflect the vicissitudes of journey described by Verne, for instance, the travelers must leave an Indian railroad (not fully completed, despite what Fogg had read in a London newspaper, which had prompted his bet!) and buy an elephant to proceed along the 50-mile gap in the railroad; the “iron horse” — wonderfully evoked by the French term “chemin de fer” (literally “road of iron”) — literally yields to traditional animal-powered locomotion.


Central game-board view of the globe, centering on the Pacific Ocean, unlike most European views

To win the bet, Fogg had to make it all the way around the world and back to London!  So he and Passpartout begin the return leg of their trip across the Pacific Ocean.  This provides the illustrator with an opportunity to show their dotted-line route on a slightly unusual view of the globe — at least for Europeans — one centered on the Pacific, not Atlantic, Ocean.  Think of all the Mercator Projection cutaway views of the globe that you’ve seen with Europe and the Atlantic Ocean at the “center of the world” with the map “split” so the Pacific is an the “edges” of the earth.  There’s no strictly logical, map-making reason for this presentation, other than cultural orientation — cultures just typically present themselves at the center of the world!  (A British Library exhibition, “Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art,” presented examples of this orientation in a variety of maps, produced by a wide variety of cultures and eras.) And don’t miss the purely illustrative “exotic” animals positioned around the globe —  a visual rendition of “nature red in tooth and claw”

San Francisco and across Great Plains, via "chemin de fer"

San Francisco and Great Plains, via “chemin de fer”

New York & and Statue of Liberty (dedicated, 1886)

New York & and Statue of Liberty (dedicated, 1886)

Having crossed the Pacific from East to West, the travelers’ next leg in the journey takes them across the entire United States, also something of a mystifying wilderness expanse of land to Englishmen and Europeans at the time.  Accordingly, the board spaces in the “inner loop” of the game-board depict San Francisco (and one of its legendary cable cars), the recently-completed Transcontinental railroad across the Great Plains (where distinctive American bison then ran free), a side-wheel paddle steamer, Chicago (whose Loop looks suspiciously like San Francisco!), and finally New York with its distinctive Statue of Liberty (dedicated only in place on Liberty Island in 1886, so this view may be an artistic imagining of the actual scene), before setting sail across the Atlantic.

Eventually, back in England after drama involving a missed ship, a mutinous crew, and a Scotland Yard detective detective who mistakenly arrests him for being a robber — all depicted on the ten or so last spaces on the game-board — Fogg is able to collect his bet, marry the girl (an Indian princess no less, Aouda, whom he had rescued during the journey), and enjoy the quintessential London vista of the River Thames, Tower Bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The River Thames at London Bridge

Back to London in time to win the bet!

To find out more about such plot escapades, you’ll have to read the book for yourself — I have to say that I’m curious myself now to reread the story! — but I hope this blog posting has shown you something about how the world and some of its peoples were depicted on this nineteenth-century game-board.  It really is remarkable how what’s essentially a backdrop for a game portrays so many facets of world geography and ethnography using a purely visual “vocabulary” with no language, (other than brief text labels): instruction with delight, indeed!

1. Marie-Helene Huet, “Re: Le Tour du Monde, game from 1915,” Jules Verne Forum (Thu, 10 Mar 2011), accessed 4/16/2015.