[New York]: c. 1825. Manuscript notebook in stitched paper wrappers, with 34 total handwritten pages divided into two sections. The first section contains the meticulous penmanship practice of Polly Spurr, comprised of 24 pages of alphabet letters and repeated words; meanwhile the second section, labeled "Mrs. Cooper's Diary" contains 10 pages in a more mature hand, of reflections on religion and religious reading. A unique glimpse into the development of one young educated woman.
Genealogy records of Chenango County, New York list Polly Spurr's birth in May of 1807 in the town of Columbus. While official historical records provide little other detail about her life, her personal copy and commonplace book give glimpses into who she was. On the verso of the front wrapper, she labels the book variously "Polly Spolly," "Polly Spurr's Book," and "Polly Spurr, Her Book," as though testing out titles. Between these ownership signature, she jots disconnected sections from the Book of Common Prayer, seemingly because she enjoys the poetry of them. "By reason of my sad estate to spend my breath in groans...My days just hastening to their end are like an evening Shade." By the first page, however, the book enters its first section -- the most orderly and meticulous of the book. Precisely crafted calligraphic letters are repeated in miniscule and magiscule, as are strings of words designed to aid in the practice of those letters: "wood, moon, soon...soars, exceeds." Following this section, a new section begins, delineated by the heading "Mrs. Cooper's Diary." Here, a more mature version of Polly's hand gathers religious readings and reflections for easy review. Copying out the selections also seems like an act of religious practice itself, as she uses her mostly well-formed but less formal hand to record meaningful scripture. In addition to the Book of Common Prayer, selections also come from The Christian Monitor and from the work of American writer Mary Laurens Ramsey. Though we've been unable to determine Polly's age at the time of the later entries, she does appear to be focused on issues of wifehood and motherhood. "In addition to her steady attention to her children's education, she exerted herself to keep them constantly in good humor; gave them every indulgence compatible to their best interes; partook with them in their sports," she writes in a section on the balance of being an attentive but not overindulgent mother. Other sections copy material on the importance of avoiding frivilous conversation, and the necessity for modesty.
With research potential including but not limited to paleography, the history of girls' education, reading practices, the history of religious practice, and gender studies. (Item #2507)