Frankfurt, Germany, physician Heinrich Hoffman wrote a book consisting of six children's stories and published it in 1845. The original name of the book is rather wieldy, and it later became known as Struwwelpeter, after one of the characters. These weren't just everyday children's tales. They were designed as a threat! The children misbehaved: they refused to bathe, beat animals, made fun of others, and worst of all, sucked a thumb. The punishment for these transgressions ranged from missing dinner to being stalked by Scissorman.
The book proved enduringly popular. By 1848 it was already in its sixth edition and had sold more than 20,000 copies. One of the most famous stories is “The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb,” a boy named Konrad who was warned not to suck his thumb, lest Scissorman come and cut it off. But he can’t resist. He puts his thumb into his mouth and, lo and behold, the terrifying Scissorman appears and snips off the offending digit. This morbid creature quickly entered the canon, and appeared later in diverse texts such as W.H. Auden’s poetry and Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands.
There are only four known copies of the first printing of Struwwelpeter, one of which is owned by the New York Public Library's rare book department. But you can see some ten of the 15 pages at Atlas Obscura. Warning: the images might be disturbing to young children, which was the point.
(Image credit: Heinrich Hoffman/Courtesy NYPL, photographed by Samir S. Patel)