London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1798. First edition. Two volumes bound in quarter sheep over cloth with gilt to spines. Some gentle rubbing to extremities. Previous owner's signature to front endpaper of Volume I. Scattered foxing to preliminaries of both copies; pencil marginal note and offsetting from inserted newsclip on Edgeworth to pages 2-3. Collates [x], , 385, [1, blank]; 387-775, : complete, containing both titles and half titles as well as the three plates (of which two are folding). An overall pleasing copy of this cornerstone work on education.
A contemporary and correspondent of such luminaries as Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Jane Marcet, Maria Edgeworth made her name as an advocate for women's education. Beginning with Letters for Literary Ladies three years earlier, Edgeworth began to write about the need to train girls into a lifelong love of learning. But it was in Practical Education, a collaboration with her father, that her views on methods of education were most specifically laid out. Opening chapters focus on the education of children, with an emphasis on the use of toys and play, the employment of reward and punishment, and the role of household figures like servants. The center of the text shifts to more mature education, with information on instruction in chemistry, mechanics, geometry, classical grammar and language, and history. By the end, Edgeworth considers where girls and women fit within the educational system -- particularly given that they are expected, as mothers or as governesses -- to train rising generations. Key to Edgeworth's tome is the idea that education is not rigid, and that systems of education must be tried and adjusted over time depending on the situation and the student. "To make any progress in the art of education, it must be patiently reduced to an experimental science; we are fully sensible of the extent and difficulty of this undertaking, and we have not the arrogance to imagine that we have made any considerable progress in a work, which the labors of many generations may perhaps be insufficient to complete; but we lay before the public the results of our experiments and in many instances the experiments themselves." The result is a researched framework of suggestions and possibilities for training young minds into responsible and intellectual adulthood.
Feminist Companion 328. Great Women Writers 155. ESTC T137068. Near Fine (Item #2790)