[Animal Biography]

Title: Pashwabali [Animal Biography]

Editor(s): Not mentioned [W. H. Pearce, John Lawson, second phase edited by Ram Chandra Mitra]

Publisher: Not mentioned [Calcutta School Book Society]

Date: 1825 [First edition 1822]

Price: Not mentioned

About the book: Claimed as the first illustrated periodical for children, the issues describe and discuss the nature and habitats of animals like the lion, the jackal, the bear, the elephant, the tiger, the cat and so on. The volumes aimed to convey, in an entertaining manner, scientific and anecdotal information about beasts to children. For instance, the first issue, devoted to the lion, introduces the subject through a diverting couplet (written in a popular Bengali meter payar) before launching into the prose part filled with instructive details and facts.
Initially, six issues of the periodical were published, these again seem to have been reprinted in later editions. In its second phase, Pashwabali was edited by Ram Chandra Mitra – perhaps the first Bengali to be the editor of a periodical. The later phase continued up to sixteen issues. In contrast with the earlier versions, these volumes were bilingual editions with texts both in English and Bengali.

Being the earliest illustrated periodical, Pashwabali marks the beginning of a popular publishing trend that sought “to provide concrete, visual and documentary evidence to sustain the points made in an item, after serving the decorative function.” In each issue, the verbal text is matched by a visual counterpart which appeared at the very beginning of a chapter. It is believed that the illustrator was Reverend John Lawson.

Pashwabali  was a pioneering venture in such areas as Bengali periodicals, children’s books, pedagogy and book illustration. Claiming to be a first in more ways than one, it is remarkable that, “though printed in Bengali, the periodical had foreigners for its publisher, printer and illustrator” (Pattrea).

Pages: 144 (six volumes)

Genre: Periodical

Source: The British Library, London
National Library, Kolkata (second phase)


VT1712 (British Library)

182.Kc.852.1 (National Library)

Pages featured:

1. Page 1, Part I

2. Page 1, Part II, No. III.

References consulted for this entry

Purnendu Pattrea, “The Continuity of the Battala Tradition: An Aesthetic Revaluation”in Ashit Paul ed. Woodcut Prints of Nineteenth Century Calcutta.


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