Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Old Testament Illustrated: Background

Old Testament Illustrated: Background

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 18, 2010

Years before Latter-day Saint artists began illustrating the Book of Mormon, we incorporated Biblical illustrations into our publications. These were generic images purchased from stock houses, and George Q. Cannon sometimes railed against the necessity of illustration the Juvenile Instructor with pictures of winged angels or effeminate Jesuses holding Catholic symbols. In the 19th century these illustrations were most often black and white cuts in primitive styles. Beginning soon after 1900, though, better photographs, even color images, could be printed or at least tipped into church publications.

I have collected hundreds of images illustrating Old Testament stories, from church magazines and lesson manuals, and from turn-of-the-century books that were owned by the Deseret Sunday School Union or the LDS University. These are, I think, the pictures that formed our grandparents’ mental images of the patriarchs and prophets, the heroes and heroines of the Old Testament.

Beginning today, I’ll be publishing a sort of Keepa Old Testament, with all these pictures placed at the points of the Biblical texts that they illustrate. I’ll generally coordinate posts with our Sunday School lessons, although for the next few weeks you’ll probably be driven crazy by extra posts in this series as I work to catch up to the Sunday lessons.

I use to store my scanned illustrations. When I began posting these pictures earlier this week, quite a few of them disappeared and were replaced with a bright red box notifying me that I had violated Photobucket’s terms of service. I appealed that censorship, noting that these pictures were generally woodcuts from 19th century children’s Sunday School texts. The pictures were soon restored, together with the strategically placed vines and leaves that provided modesty in nearly all cases. (However, the TK smoothie apparently undergone by Adam in the Michelangelo Sistine Chapel ceiling painting of God creating Adam was a bit of editing done by the old book publisher, not by me, I promise.)

I hope you enjoy the variety of styles and subjects as much as I have enjoyed collecting them.



  1. THIS is going to be fun!

    Comment by ellen — March 18, 2010 @ 7:57 pm

  2. I sure hope so! It has been fun for me to collect the images, and a great review of Genesis (all I’ve done so far) to decide exactly where to place each picture.

    I don’t expect a lot of discussion unless some particular image catches someone’s fancy, but I hope people will enjoy scrolling through even if they don’t comment.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 18, 2010 @ 8:16 pm

  3. I can’t wait to see what you have come up with.

    Comment by Maurine — March 18, 2010 @ 10:28 pm

  4. Coo-el.

    Comment by m&m — March 18, 2010 @ 11:41 pm

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