Philadelphia: Thomas T. Ash, 1831. First edition. Quarter calf over pictorial boards. All edges gilt. Small bump to lower front corner. Yellow endpapers. xvi, 17-222: complete, including 7 leaves of plates by F. Kearney, J.B. Neagle, and H.W. Steel. Internally a pleasing copy, with only a bit of light scattered foxing and some offsetting from the plates. Featuring several American women poets, including Lydia Sigourney, the present was designed as a gift book to be exchanged by women at Christmas and New Year's.
The design and content of The Pearl speaks to important shifts happening in the Victorian world, as women became a key market for authors and publishers. Mass-circulating magazines in the U.S. -- notably Ladies' Home Journal, McCall's, Delineator, Woman's Home Companion, and Good Housekeeping -- encouraged women to purchase and read material designed to meet their own interests and lives (Peiss). The book trade also began taking women's interests into account. Though the popularity of novels caused concern for some parents, who suspected that their impressionable daughters might be led into unsavory romances or other adventures, the reading and exchange of poetry remained a suitable and elegant outlet for young women. The present work clearly targets this market. Beautifully bound in holiday colors, it contains lovely illustrations of women and little girls. The poetry itself, written by popular American poets like Lydia Sigourney, Anna Maria Wells, and Eliza Leslie, emphasizes women's own experiences: Child Left on the Seashore, The Step-Mother, To a Young Child, and The Little Runaway appeal to maternal sentiments, for example. The Little Girl and Her Kitten, The Pet Lamb, and The Clean Face, meanwhile, call upon women readers' childhoods to invoke nostalgia. In all, a lovely gift book that points to women's increasing power in shaping books of the time. Near Fine (Item #3222)