A Picturesque Tale of Progress
A Picturesque Tale of Progress was written by Mrs. Olive Kennan Beaupré Miller, who also edited the wonderful children's anthology, My Book House, and wrote or edited other books as well. Mrs. Miller's assistant for this lovely set was Harry Neal Baum, former professor of history at the University of Wisconsin.
A Picturesque Tale of Progress was first published in 1929 as My Book of History: A Picturesque Tale of Progress, in four volumes. It was soon retitled A Picturesque Tale of Progress and reprinted as eight volumes, occasionally with a ninth index volume.
It remained in print, in this format, through the 1950's. The cover style pictured above was published from the late 30's through the 50's, most commonly in black. The dusty green is very hard to find. Either color, this is the nicest format for this series. Content is complete and the bindings are far more sturdy than the materials that were used earlier.
In 1963 the set was revised and retitled again, The Story of Mankind. The Story of Mankind shows no textual changes, but the colorful pictures that added so much to A Picturesque Tale of Progress were omitted, making the set less inviting to children.
Beginnings I starts with an unconsciously fictional piece on "early man," followed by an excellent discussion of the rise and fall of Egypt.
Beginnings II covers Babylonia, the Assyrian empire, and biblical history from Abraham to the Fall of Jerusalem.
Conquests I follows the history of Crete and then Greece, from its rise as a political state through the conquests of Alexander the Great.
Conquests II teaches the history of Rome. It includes extensive coverage of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His life on Earth, along with the missionary journeys of Paul and the peaceful conquest of Rome by Christianity.
New Nations I covers the Fall of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Medieval Church, the Vikings, and the Feudal Age.
New Nations II reveals the glory of the Byzantine Empire, the Crusades and their effects, Spain and the Moors, the development of England, France as a monarchy, Germany and the Holy Roman Empire, and Italy and the Renaissance.
Explorations I covers Marco Polo, Genghis Khan, the conquests of the Mongols, and Africa and India.
Explorations II follows the New World from ancient times. The voyages of Leif Ericsson and Columbus introduce extensive treatment of the peoples in the Americas, with special focus on the civilizations of Mexico, Central America, and southwestern America and their conquest by the Spanish. The series ends here--with the discovery of America and the conquest of its native peoples.
This series is so beautifully done. It's attractive, well-written, beautifully-illustrated, and uses just the right detail to capture the attention of a young reader.
Mrs. Miller lamented,
"I myself emerged from high school and college with only a dry collection of dates, a jumbled memory of many apparently meaningless wars, and a fragmentary, disconnected knowledge of a very few periods in history, through which I could follow no continuous thread....history had never been presented to me as though it concerned human beings whose lives were more full of human interest, of tragedy, comedy, romance, and great adventure than those of the hero in any novel. So I...determined not only to get for myself a connected and general view of history, but to make that history alive in my own imagination. For years I pursued this work as a hobby...[until] at last came my opportunity to give children what I myself had wanted from childhood on--a picturesque and living history of the world from the Stone Age to the beginnings of modern times.... To bring history to life for children, to present to them a fascinating historical panorama, to let them travel up the path of time with the men and women who had made history--that was my purpose in writing A PICTURESQUE TALE OF PROGRESS."
Mrs. Miller absolutely accepted the Bible as a legitimate historical document and clearly asserts that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, who performed many miracles, including resurrection from the dead. To share Mrs. Miller's writing style and perspective, I have excerpted the following:
"[As] Abraham saw the worshippers [of Ur] daily making their way to the temple of the moon-god and the house of the moon-goddess, serving, with elaborate ceremonies, the gods of earth and sky created by their own fancies, and blindly looking to them as the power that governed life, there stirred in his soul a rebellion against all those wild superstitions. He began to grope after God, if haply he might find him,--one living God alone, a real, vital presence who should speak living words to his heart....
"So the Lord said unto Abraham, 'Get thee out of thy country unto a land which I will show thee....'
"And Abraham obeyed; he went forth out of Ur, with Sarah, Lot, and Terah, not knowing whither he went, but seeking the Promised Land, turning his back on Ur with all its material glories and seeking a city which had foundations, whose builder and maker was God."
"Then David took Bathsheba, when her days of mourning were over, and made her his wife and she bore him a son. But the thing was a grievous sin and the child of Bathsheba died, and David cried to the Lord in passionate repentence:
'Have mercy on me, O Lord, according to Thy loving kindness;
According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions,
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin;
For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with Thy free spirit.'"
On Alexander and Aristotle:
"And when Alexander was twelve or thirteen years of age, Philip sent for Aristotle to come and be his tutor.
"Aristotle was the last of the great philosophers of Greece. He had been a pupil of Plato; but while his master taught that ideas alone were real, Aristotle was interested rather in things than in ideas. He liked to study birds and plants, animals and fishes, and work out exact rules for reasoning, making logic into a science. He was the first man to collect and present in orderly fashion everything that man knew. Life under such a teacher was full of active interest. A youth taught by Aristotle must think in logical manner, clearly and independently. He must find the world full of subjects inviting investigation, and above all, he must understand that happiness cannot exist if separated from virtue...."
On the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ:
"And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the Kingdom and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people, and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments and he healed them. But when it was noised abroad that he not only preached the gospel, but also healed the sick and cast devils out of the lunatic, scribes came from Jerusalem and said: 'This fellow doth not cast out devils but by the power of Beelzebub, the Prince of the devils.'
"...so Jesus said to them plainly, 'If I by the power of Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God is come unto you!'
"For Mary Magdalene and other women coming on Sunday with spices to anoint the body, found the tomb of Jesus empty. Their master had risen! He had proved that life is deathless. He had risen from the dead....
"And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, 'All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world.'"
"After the banquet, Attila stunned his guests with surprise, overwhelming Vigilas by revealing that all along he had known of the plot to murder him! Nevertheless, the Hun scornfully refused to take the life of a servant as satisfaction for the crime. He sent the envoys home in disgrace, arrogantly demanding the head of the prime minister! And while the unfortunate minister lived in deadly fear lest his sovereign should purchase peace with his unworthy head, Attila decided that the time was ripe at last for him to attack the Empire. The only question was, which should he attack first, Ravenna or Constantinople?"
On Cimabue and Giotto:
"One day the great Cimabue, traveling in the country, saw a little shepherd-boy drawing on a smooth bit of rock. Stopping to see how the lad was entertaining himself, the artist was so impressed that he asked the child's father to let him come and study with him in Florence. Accordingly, little Giotto left his flock of sheep and was off to the gray streets of Florence. Diligently he studied, and once in his master's absence, he hastily painted a fly encamped on the nose of a face whereon Cimabue was painting. When the older artist returned, he tried again and again to drive away the fly! Giotto had surpassed his master! He had painted a fly so real that he fooled even Cimabue."
On Marco Polo:
"Within a remarkably short time, Marco learned four different languages, and adopted the manners and dress of the Mongols. Finding him so accomplished, the Kublai Khan decided to send him on an important mission; and the young man conducted himself with so much wisdom and tact that the Khan was greatly pleased. Marco noticed that the Kublai greatly enjoyed hearing about strange manners and customs. He therefore took especial note of all that was new and different among the people he visited; and related his interesting observations with such spirit and understanding that the Kublai was delighted, and decided, then and there, to keep the young man and make use of his cleverness."
"So Cortez, in a fury, turned to attack the great pyramid of their War God. Against fierce resistance he led his men up the steps. All streaming with blood and covered with wounds, they reached the altar at the top, destroyed the idols there and set fire to whatever would burn."
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