London: Groombridge & Sons, 1859. First edition. Original publisher's cloth binding with gilt to spine and front board. All edges brightly gilt. Spine a bit toned and a bit of rubbing to rear board, but in all a square and pretty copy. Yellow endpapers. Front hinge professionally strengthened. Light offsetting to versos of some plates. Internally clean and unmarked. Collates xii, , 212: complete, with half-title, frontis, and all 15 plates designed by the author. With OCLC reporting only 18 copies at U.S. institutions, and no other copies on the market, this important astronomy book for children has become quite scarce.
A childhood fascination with science turned into serious study for Mary Ward when, on her 18th birthday, her father presented her with a microscope made by Andrew Ross, one of the leading instrument makers of London. "Mary Ward continued to pursue the scientific interests in adulthood that had been so much encouraged in her girlhood. Her close friendship with her cousin, Lord Rosse, and his wife meant that she was often at Birr during the building of the great telescope...completed in 1845, she was the first to make observations with it" (ODNB). Because she faced challenges getting scientific work published in academic journals, she turned to writing educational children's books which were "favourably reviewed for their easy style and especially for the quality of Mary's illustrations" (Turner). Telescope Teachings was one of her most famous texts, encouraging women and children to see the study of the sky as accessible and exciting. "This little book does not attempt to teach Astronomy, it deals principally with observation; shewing how the stars appear in their season, coming back year after year in their appointed time while the stately planets move in their solemn paths, changing places gradually among the unchanging stars, as they have done before our time and will continue to do after we pass away." For Ward, the beauty of the world is increased when one understands its operations; and all it takes to accomplish this is an informed guide, an observational eye, and a telescope to assist. For Telescope Teachings "she takes her place among the popularizers of science who, during the 18th and 19th centuries, did much to encourage knowledge of, and interest in, the natural world among the general public, and thus to simulate advances in science and technology that marked the industrial revolution" (Turner). (Item #2860)