London: Smith, Elder & Co, 1837. First edition. Original publisher's cloth binding with gilt to spine with boards stamped in blind. All edges brightly gilt. Yellow endpapers. Contemporary ownership signature of Anna E. Ballard to head of title page. A neat, square copy that has some light scattered foxing to plates but is otherwise internally clean and fresh. Collates xiv, , [1, blank], 296, 32: complete including handcolored frontis and 11 plates. This scarce educational manual has been reported at 9 U.S. institutions according to OCLC and is presently the only copy on the market.
"Caroline Amelia Halsted, historian and author...published her first work, The Little Botanist, in 1835. This was followed by Investigations in a Boudoir, an unusual textbook in which a mother and daughter conduct a domestic 'grand tour' of their living room, investigating the origins and nature of everyday objects around them" (ODNB). Like other women citizen-scientists of the period, Halsted recognized that little girls might not have the same access to scientific, economic, or political education as their brothers who might go to formal schools or take European grand tours. A solution across these fields was to use domestic and local spaces as sites of exploration -- here, encouraging girls and women to realize that the most mundane materials at home offered opportunities for learning about international supply chain, craftsmanship and artisinal practices, and other cultures. In English homes filled with the products of imperialism, Halsted even suggests a civic responsibility in recognizing and studying domestic objects. "How many young persons of superior understanding, who play, and sing, and dance, and paint with taste and execution beyond their years -- are, nevertheless, totally unaquainted with origin, history, or progress into general use of the most ordinary articles with which they are surrounded; so ordinary, indeed, as to be for that very reason disregarded or disdained because within everyone's observation; articles which, nevertheless, are essential." In the pages that follow, little Agnes and her Mamma use their home's rugs, porcelain, feathers and plumes, and writing materials as means of learning about the wider world. In this sense, Investigation also aligned with Halsted's mission of promoting "the importance of women's educative influence within the home and for the development of English culture" (ODNB). Fine (Item #2947)