Derby: J. Drewry, 1797. First edition. Contemporary quarter calf over marbled boards; spine ruled in gilt with red morocco label; all edges dyed yellow. Boards and spine rubbed; some chipping along edges. Original stab holes visible in gutter margins. Previous owner’s bookplate on front pastedown; ink signature of Mary Wolley to front free endpaper; light foxing. Quarto collates complete, with half title and engraved frontispiece: viii, -128. Bound after Fosbrooke, T.D. The Economy of Monastic Life. Glocester: Printed by R. Raikes, . First edition, dedicated to Edward Jenner who is also listed as a subscriber. Internally a copy in excellent condition.
The grandfather of the illustrious Charles Darwin, Erasmus Darwin wrote this treatise on the education of young women to support his own daughters’ school at Ashbourne. Darwin’s treatise takes a comprehensive view of women’s education, suggesting that it should reach beyond social skills such as the “perpetual appearance of attention,” polite dancing, and flattering dress and into formal intellectual pursuits including literature, history, mathematics, and the natural sciences. While he promoted women’s education in part to improve the likelihood of companionate marriages, Darwin’s text tentatively acknowledges that a marital partnership can only function happily when both parties have an intelligent understanding of the world and the ability to participate in it. “A radical campaigner for equality, he condemned slavery, supported female education and opposed conventional Christian ideas on creation” (Farra). With a bookplate from the library of the Wolley family, this particular copy has the ownership signature of female reader Mary Wolley. (Item #1978)