Latin for Dummies by Magda van Tilburg
'Latin 4 Dummies' (2008).

Magda van Tilburg is a Dutch illustrator, graphic designer and comic creator, known for her work on children's books and for her 'Classica Signa' comic book adaptations of Ancient Greek and Latin literature. Much of her work is available online through her non-profit website Booxalive. In Dutch comic history, Van Tilburg is additionally notable as the first female comic artist in the Netherlands to draw balloon comics. 

Early life
Magda van Tilburg was born in 1954 in Amsterdam. As a child, she spent hours writing and drawing her own horror, sci-fi and romance books. She plasticized the covers with transparent nail polish. While in high school, she had difficulties learning texts from Latin and Ancient Greek literature. To make the material more comprehensible, she began making comics based on the stories, starting with a chapter from Homer's 'Odyssey'. Charmed by her efforts, her deputy headmaster made a small-format comic book out of it, marking the first incarnation of her comic book series 'Classica Signa'.

Classica Signa
In the early 1970s, Van Tilburg moved on to study Classical Languages at the University of Amsterdam. During this period, she continued to make adaptations of ancient literature in the original language, including stories by Herodotus, Euripides, Homer, Ovidius and Plautus. During the 1970s, they were released in digest-sized black-and-white comic books by her then-husband, Frans Panholzer. Eight installments were made; four in Ancient Greek, four in Latin.

Classica Signa by Magda van Tilburg
Original version of one of Van Tilburg's 'Classica Signa' books.

Graduated with distinction with a BA Classic Studies, Van Tilburg decided to further pursue her artistic ambitions. Between 1978 and 1984, she attended the Rietveld Art Academy, where the illustrators Thé Tjong-Khing, Waldemar Post, Leo Schatz, Jan Elburg, Rik van Bentum and Carl Hollander were among her professors. With her newly acquired skills, Van Tilburg redrew the 'Classica Signa' books, which were then sold at the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam. They were also used during international expositions. Between September 1982 and February 1983, the 'Dido et Aeneas' volume was shown at the exhibition 'Virgil Across 2000 years' in the British Museum in London. In 1998, Van Tilburg's 'Dido et Aeneas' was analyzed by Prof. dr. Suerbaum in his exhibition 'Vergil Visuell' at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany.

In 2006, the German publisher C.C. Buchner discovered the 'Classica Signa' comics on the author's website and showed interest. For the occasion, Van Tilburg digitally redrew and colorized Virgil's 'Dido et Aeneas', Ovid's 'Phaethon' and Plautus' 'Curculio', which were released in Germany under the 'Antiqua Signa' banner (2007-2009). In February and March 2008, Magda van Tilburg additionally made a daily comics column for newspaper De Volkskrant, titled 'Latijn voor Beginners' ("Latin 4 Dummies").

'Curculio' (redrawn version).

Children's books
After her art studies, Magda van Tilburg became a prominent illustrator of children's picture stories. Over the years, she worked regularly for educational and children's book publishers like Zwijsen, Van Goor, Ploegsma, Kluitman, Kok, Bekadidact and Kosmos, and also for the pre-school magazines Bobo and Okki. For Bobo, she made the 'Marjolijntje Harlekijntje' (1984) picture stories with writer Anne Takens. Later on, Van Tilburg illustrated several books by Takens, including 'De Liefste Opa van het Land' (1994), 'Het Geheim van Luuk' (1997), 'Bloed op de stoep' (1998) and 'Net Een Droom' (2000). She also illustrated books by Marion Bloem, Hannemieke Stamperius, Anne Provoost, Annet van Battum and Els Pelgrom. Notable book series were the eight 'Nik en Laura' picture books with writer Marion van de Coolwijk (Kluitman, 1990-1995), the 'Koosje' series written by Vrouwke Klapwijk (Callenbach, 1997-2009) and the thee-volume youth book series 'De Emeraldo's' by Margriet de Graaf (Den Hertog, 2010-2012).

From volume 6 of the 'Nik en Laura' series by Marion van de Coolwijk and Magda van Tilburg.

Originally, Van Tilburg specialized in drawing with pencil and watercolors, but eventually she was one of the first Dutch illustrators for fully embrace the possibilities of drawing digitally. In 2013, she launched Booxalive, a non-profit website with literary children's stories, aimed at reading promotion. Through the site, she has made several of her earlier children's books available, enhanced with animated elements. This also includes her 'Classica Signa' and 'Antiqua Signa' comics, which now have an English translation to accompany the original Greek and Latin texts. Besides work by Van Tilburg, Booxalive also offers children's books and animated shorts by Gemma Stekelenburg, Hannemieke Stamperius, Eric van Tilburg, Kiki Goené, Linda Lee, Lotte Leijdekkers and Margreet de Heer.

Comics pioneer
Within the Dutch comics scene, the literary comics by Magda van Tilburg remained unnoticed for many years. By the time of their creation in the 1970s, none of the Dutch comic news magazines made any mention of them. They also remained absent in the official Hans Matla comic catalogues. Still, as Hans van Klinken pointed out in a 2017 post on the Incognito Comics blog, Van Tilburg is probably the first female comic creator in the Netherlands to make balloon comics. During the 1970s, Patty Klein was the first Dutch woman working professionally as a fulltime comic creator, but her activities were limited to scriptwriting. Previous female illustrators with excursions into the comics format were doing picture stories with text captions for children's magazines. As the allround creator of her own comic books with speech balloons, Magda van Tilburg can rightfully be considered a pioneer of female cartooning in the Netherlands.

Illustration for the Vietnamese fairy tale 'Kimmy Lien op reis', available as an animated picture book on

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