An interesting aspect of my work at the library is retrieving items from the vault, which often leads to browsing and discovering curious books that I wasn’t even looking for.

A recent discovery was a small, slender volume entitled sechs und Zwanzig nichtige Kinderspiel; zu wichtiger Erinnerung erhebt: und in Kupfer gebracht durch Conrad Meyer Maalern [sic] in Zürich.

The title page shows adults looking at all their childhood toys. These toys are symbolic of the lessons in life.

This book is often cited by the title die Kinder-Lustspiele, ein reich bebildertes Sittenbuch (Children’s games, a richly illustrated book of morals), printed in 1657. It was written originally by Jacob Cats (1577-1660), a Dutch Lawyer, author, and poet. The German translation was by Johann Heinrich Amman.

This type of book is categorized as an emblem book, a type of book that was extremely popular in the 1600 and 1700s. Didactic lessons were reinforced by illustrations that were emblematic, i.e, symbolic. The lesson was usually presented in verse.
In this book the seventh lesson (jump rope) and eighth lesson (leap frog) are presented on a single page. Under each illustrated child’s game is a verse of rhyming couplets.


In äiner jeden sach Geh nur dem mittel nach;
Sonst fälet dier das spil, Sonst triffstu nicht das Zil.

In everything you do, investigate how it’s done;
Otherwise the game won’t work, Otherwise you’ll not win

Du springest hoch empor; Ain andrer kommt härfor,
Und über springt dich auch: Diß ist der Welt gebrauch

You jump up high; another person comes along,
And jumps over you. This is the way life is.

In the narrative portion of the book there are longer explanations about the meaning of the lesson.

Das sibende Bild
The seventh Illustration

Der Seillespringer zeigt den fund
Wie man sol achten auf die stund/
Wie man sol passen auf die zeit/
Eh denn entwüsch gelegenheit.

The rope jumper shows what’s important
How you should pay attention to the time
How you should wait for the moment
For the right opportunity

Könt ihr nun springen daß geraht/
Nicht gar zu früh/ nicht gar zu spaht/
Nicht gar zu träg/ nicht gar zu schnell/
Im Spiel bleibt euch die Meister stell.

 If you can jump just right,
Not too early, not too late,
Not too slow, not too fast,
You will be a master of the game.

Das achte Bild
The eighth Illustration
Beschaut den Knaben der da springt/
Wie er sein gsellen nidertringt;
Doch seht auch wie diß Spiel sich endt/
Wie sich das blätlein umherwendt;
Der da ein weil im nidern schwebt/
Der zeigt auch wider daß er lebt/
Und der zuvor so hohe sprung
Und all die andern underzwung/

Observe the boy who’s jumping
How he pushes down his playmate;
But watch how this game ends,
How the tables are turned;
The one who hovers low a while,
He shows that he lives again,
And the one who jumped so high before
And pushed down all the others,

Der dukt sich widrum mit dem haubt/
Wird seiner ersten macht beraubt.
Wann dann ein Reich/ und grosse Stat
Groß glükk/ groß ehr und reichthum hat;
So steigt leicht eine auß dem grab/
Die siht ihr allen vortheil ab.
Dann also gehets in der welt/
Was lag das steigt/ was stuhnd da felt.

He ducks his head down again,
And is robbed of all his power.
When a kingdom, and great city
Has great luck, great honor and riches
One can easily climb out of the ditch,
Then take away all its splendor.
And so it goes in the world,
What was laying, stands up, what was standing, falls.

Allen Viehmeyer
Associate Director of Research


About schwenkfelder

We are a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of the Schwenkfelders and the history of southeastern Pennsylvania and the Perkiomen Region. The Heritage Center offers educational programming and tours, exhibits, workshops, and events throughout the year. Our blog is maintained by museum educator, Rebecca Lawrence, SLHC staff and guest bloggers.
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