London: Robert Hardwicke, 1864. First edition. Original publisher's cloth binding with gilt to spine and front board. Some rubbing to extremities and splitting to cloth at head of front joint and along the rear joint, with some tenderness but holding well. Brown coated endpapers. Early ownership blindstamp to headers of front endpaper, title page, and contents. Binder's ticket to rear pastedown. Internally a clean, unmarked and complete copy, collating [iv], 4-120, , [1, blank]. A pleasing of a scarce book, and a lovely example of Victorian women's efforts to draw a more diverse group into the study of science by making it local and accessible. The only first edition on the market, OCLC reports 10 copies worldwide (only 3 of those in North America).
One of a growing number of women citizen scientists of the period, Rosalinda Cox used her slim volume to open up a field of science to children of all classes and genders, encouraging them to be excited and curious about scientific discovery within their own gardens. "The authoress has intended to give, in as condensed a form as possible, under the most recently received system, a sketch of the common insects of this country, with their proper names, as well as their less familiar titles of foreign derivation." In this sense, new entomologists can quickly learn the terminologies and taxonomies required for comfortably conversing with other scientists or performing their own inquiries. But for Cox, the study of insects also poses opportunities for teaching children social lessons about humans as well. "Few branches of science have suffered as much from neglect and derision as entomology," she begins the opening chapter, and she argues against the minuteness of the objects or a derision for their form as justifications. Ultimately, she concludes that entomology's unpopularity has been out of a human-centrism that encourages prejudice against them "on account of the injury they do to our property." But study, she asserts, can lead to a more complex view, also uncovering "whether the many benefits we receive from them more than counterbalance the evils of which they are the cause." While still an anthropocentric claim, Cox's position urges children to see themselves within a larger and more complex ecosystem rather than an overly simplistic one. With detailed illustrations throughout and a useful index at rear, the slim volume was perfectly designed to fit in a pocket or a hand as one began outdoor exploration and needed reference. (Item #3861)