Philadelphia: Joseph James, 1787. First edition. Contemporary speckled calf. Gentle shelfwear and rubbing with slight bow to bottom of front board; small crack to lower front hinge but in all tight and unsophisticated. Closed tear to front endpaper. Numerous ownership signatures to front and rear pastedowns, front and rear endpapers, title page, header of Preface, and header of first page of content. Ownership stamp to verso of title and verso of Preface. All ownership signatures from the Murdoch-Whithall family, including a handwritten family genealogy in a single contemporary hand to the rear of title. Most notable among the book's owners and users are Emma Murdoch, whose young hand appears several times on the front pastedown; and Joseph Murdoch, who notes on the title page that he acquired the book December 12th, 1799 and was "Midshipman in the Ganges belonging to the United States of America" as well as his note on the rear flyleaf stating "Joseph Murdoch his Book steal not this..." Complete, including publisher's adverts at rear. Scarce institutionally and in trade, the present is the only collectible copy on the market of a title that last sold at auction almost two decades ago.
In addition to being one of America's earliest educational works published for the use of both sexes, "Moore's book is the richest surviving body of evidence revealing the nature and substance of women's intellectual community in British America and the early Republic. The quality of the writing is high and reflects a range of literary genres, including religious and meditational poetry, elegies, verse epistles and extempore verse, hymns, and occasional poems...Taken as a whole, Moore's collection presents an unparalleled view of the interests and tastes of educated women in early America, belying the notion that women's concerns were limited only to a domestic sphere" (History of American Women). Moore, the member of a prominent Quaker family and the beneficiary of a rigorous education, "lived and flourished in the Philadelphia area during its peak, when it was the center of commerce, politics, social life, and culture in the young republic...she knew and corresponded with many of the leading intellectuals of her day. From her network of acquaintances, she created a commonplace book" that ultimately served as the basis for Miscellanies Moral and Instructive (HAW). Her manuscript commonplace book was largely compiled during the Revolution, and across its 126 entries were pieces by at least 16 different women authors, as well as works by Benjamin Franklin (who endorsed the book), Patrick Henry, and Samuel Fothergill.
The present copy has the distinction of being particularly research-rich, and offering the opportunity to consider how it was passed among the male and female members of its family from the start. Much as Moore intended in composing a text for "the right education of youth," the Murdoch and Whithall families used the text for male and female members. Further genealogical research could be done on the family, which US Census records from 1800 and 1832 locate in Chester County and Philadelphia, PA. (Item #3254)