London: Harvey & Darton, 1826. First edition. Original marbled boards rebacked with red morocco with gilt label to spine. Some bumping and scuffing to extremities. Binding tight and square. Ownership signature to front endpaper in pen: "W. Manley. 1826." Light scattered foxing to pastedowns and endpapers; internally a surprisingly fresh and bright copy, with plates retaining their colors. Collating vii, [1, blank], 103, [1, blank]: complete, with all 10 plates (including the frontis). A scarce work, OCLC reports 15 copies in the U.S., with this the only copy on the market.
Rudiments of Conchology is a site of cultural intersections, both in its content and in its publication history. Participating in a movement of women citizen scientists who sought to make various fields more accessible to children regardless of gender or class, by the time of its publication "Mary Anne Venning was already well known as a writer of scientific works for the young" (Spies-Gans). Her work, like that of contemporaries Jane Marcet and Mary Roberts, urged children to see the world around them as a place for learning and exploration -- work that could be done by observing or cataloguing the botanical and zoological life at the local garden or seaside, not just in distant lands. At the same time, Venning was working to carve out space for educated women's voices; and it was a mission that dovetailed with her publisher's goal of establishing its own Quaker community as an important part of the nation. Venning took seriously Maria Edgeworth's ideas about educational equality, addressing both boy and girl readers and presenting girls with progressive notions about schooling and employment. And the Quakers' classless, anti-hierarchical social structure made it possible as early as the 17th century for Quaker women "to publish journals, testimonies, and spiritual biographies...a revolutionary power that gave women first a public voice and then a published identity and tradition" (Nussbaum). William Darton harnessed this. As a Quaker and "the most important publisher of juvenile literature of the first half of the nineteenth century, he promoted Quaker topics through his books' subjects, educational purpose, and authorship by a stream of women who were also mostly Quakers...Quaker social ethics played a key role in enabling the female geographical phenomenon of 1790-1828" (Spies-Gans). A fascinating and important work, the text is also beautifully illustrated throughout. (Item #3911)