The American Drawing Book by J. G. Chapman was originally written in 1847. Subtitled A Manual for the Amateur and Basis of Study for the Professional Artist: Especially Adapted to the use of Public and Private Schools, as well as Home Instruction, this original version is a manual of instruction for the beginner.
The author’s motto, which you will find repeated throughout the book is that “anyone who can learn to write, can learn to draw.” It is this theme that takes up most of the introduction, expounding on the importance and value of teaching art to students.
The author then begins the art lessons by developing “the facility of hand,” “laying well the foundation before beginning the structure.” To that point, the student starts by forming straight lines, tracing over lines, and then drawing lines “with firmness and decision.”
Those familiar with Charlotte Mason‘s writings will find passages that resonate:
‘One thing at a time,’ may be a good adage for old heads, but childhood needs variety in its labors. Its mental exertions should be tempered by agreeable diversion, and, more especially, when that diversion can be made of lasting benefit.
We may rely upon it, that the child, who loves his slate better than his book, will soon, by a judicious indulgence, learn to love them both together. The truant and the sullen prisoner to the school-bench would become the willing learner; and the early habits, thus acquired, of observation and appreciation of the beauty and wonder of creation, will lead to a healthful thirst for knowledge, the truest and surest incentive to the study of books.
At this point you may find elements that are similar to those in Drawing with Children, practicing lines and curves, and moving on to lines closely spaced and shading. Some of the exercises are first performed on ruled paper before moving on to a blank sheet of paper.
Another chapter covers the rudiments of drawing beginning with the human head and moving to hands and feet, while focusing on proportion.
The book is written to the instructor or parent, or can be used by older students to teach themselves. Mom might even like to give it a try!
…[A]lthough all may derive advantage from their perusal, [these Primary Instructions] are especially intended for those who have as yet made no advancement in drawing. Their purpose is to show an easy and certain course by which any one may make a beginning, and qualify his hand and eye to enter upon the broader field that lies before him.
The want of knowledge of the proper means of making a beginning, has prevented many from attempting the art of drawing, while other have regarded it as a mystery, only to be reached by a gifted few. It is time this delusion should be dispelled.