Boston: I. Thomas and E.T. Andrews, April 1799. First edition. Contemporary tree calf with morocco and gilt spine label. Boards professionally reattached, retaining original endpapers. Offsetting to pastedowns. Early ownership signature of Anthony L. Griffiths to header of Preface, and pen practice of the same on the rear endpapers, dated 1814. Pasted slip at Preface end with the name of Catharine Veghte (1779-1858). Pages uniformly toned as is common of early American imprints, but internally unmarked else. Collating viii, 9-323, [1, blank]: complete, with page 287 misnumbered 297 as called for in ESTC. An extremely early and scarce example of a women's education book, featuring prominent women within its readings. ESTC reports copies at only 16 institutions, the present being the only copy on the market.
Elementary education in the colonies and early republic relied on women opening their homes as "dame schools, defined as a school influenced by the English model of home instruction for small groups of children. These schools in New England prepared boys for town schools. While girls also attended dame schools, only a small percentage later attended town schools or academies" (Monaghan). Indeed, formal education for young women was often confined to the privileged classes, as it required sending daughters away to board at one of the few elite girls' finishing schools. More frequently, educated women continued to learn at home, under the guidance of mothers and female community leaders who were themselves hosting literary salons and purchasing books. This created a heightened need for readers designed to appeal to women and to provide structure for lessons. The present is an exceptionally early example of this; and indeed, the anonymous compiler asserts that she "cannot recollect any other adapted to the use of Schools for Young Ladies." Drawing together short essays, fiction, and poems from "the best Modern Authors," it notably includes important women writers such as Fanny Burney, Hester Chapone, Hester Thale, and Susanna Rowson. The compiler complains that until recently there has been only "partial attention heretofore paid to girls' education" and that while she aims to fix this gap with a book "principally designed for the use of schools, she flatters herself that it will be found not unworthy the perusal of such as have already finished their education." In this way, she continues to engage adult women who may go on to run dame schools or educate their own daughters.
Evans 35911. ESTC W13900. (Item #3470)