New York: F. J. Huntington & Co., 1837. First edition. Brown roan spine over original brown publisher's cloth. Binding extremities lightly bumped and rubbed; light soiling to boards. Contemporary ownership signature and stamps of John G. Folsom on front endpaper, and an additional ink signature to page 219 not affecting text. Collates vi [mispaginated vii], , 380 pages: complete, including an array of scientific illustrations and diagrams. Text block tight; light scattered foxing throughout. In all, a desireable copy of this important scientific textbook designed for the education of girls. Rare at institutions and in trade, this is the only copy on the market and it has never before appeared at auction.
A pioneer in American women's education, Almira Phelps began her career tutoring students of the all-male Middlebury College in science, mathematics, and philosophy. "This experience illustrated the disparity between education available for men and for women, and Almira spent the rest of her life fighting for more educational opportunities for females" (History of American Women). Joining forces with her sister Emma Willard, the founder of the Troy Female Seminary in New York, Phelps began to teach rigorous humanities and science courses in addition to lecturing publicly on behalf of women's rights for equal education. Phelps established herself as a frontrunner in the field, publishing ten books on the education of women, including a series of "Familiar Lectures" on various subjects including botany and the natural sciences. The present work contains chapters on a range of scientific fields including astronomy, acoustics, optics, electricity and magnetism, and mechanical properties; and each section includes not only informational texts but illustrations for increased clarity. Phelps' goal in producing the work was to make science an accessible field for women often excluded from its study. "The author has adopted the style of familiar address because, while equally favourable for the communication of knowledge, it is more interesting to the pupil than a formal, didactic style...The author has endeavored to invest the subject with something of freshnest and interest, that may enliven the progress of the young." For Phelps, female students should not be cowed by scientific learning but rather should be encouraged to embrace it as an arena that "exerts a salutory influence" on their development and "teaches the young to reason for themselves." Phelps' eventual election as the first female member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, her leadership in some of the most reputable female seminaries, and her published works have solidified her place among the pioneers of American women's education.
Ogilvie's Women in Science 147. History of American Women. (Item #2573)