London: T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies in the Strand, 1799. First edition. Contemporary half calf over marbled boards with gilt to spines. All edges speckled red. Morocco spine labels replaced and outer joints professionally strengthened. A touch of rubbing to front boards, but in all square and pleasing. Ownership signature of J.L. Taylor to pastedown of volume II; evidence of removed contemporary ownership signature to front endpaper of both volumes. Occasional marginal annotations, more concentrated in volume I. Collating [i-ii], [v], vi-xix, [1, blank], 274; [v], vi-vii[1, blank], 322, [2, adverts]: bound without half title to volume I, else complete. Housed in a custom quarter leather case. Extremely popular in its own time, the present title went through at least seven editions in its first year; and early editions appear regularly. The first however remains quite scarce institutionally and in trade. ESTC reports 20 institutions with copies (11 of those in the U.S.), with its last appearance at auction over a decade ago in 2009. Presently, this is the only copy on the market.
Arguably the most influential published work of prolific Bluestocking author, abolitionist, and education reformer, Strictures takes the contemporary British education and social systems to task for failing half the population. Echoing the structure of Sir Thomas More's argument on economic and educational disparities in Utopia, Hannah More opens her own book: "It is a singular injustice which is often exercised towards women, first to give them a most defective education, and then to expect from them the most undeviating purity of conduct; to train them in such a manner as shall lay them open to the most dangerous faults, and then to censure them for not proving faultless." Revealing herself from the start as a woman adept in philosophy, rhetoric and history, More establishes authority in front of both male and female readers. Ultimately, her book makes clear that she needs to address them both: women of rank and men with power are the only people who can cause a significant shift in how girls are trained. She provides them with compelling reasons for restructuring girls' intellectual training, as well as providing practical advice, readings, and methods for increasing rigor. A monument in the history of women's education.
ESTC T48748. Feminist Companion 760. The Life of Hannah More, 275-277. Encyclopedia of British Women Writers. Biographical Sketches of the Bluestockings. ESTC T48748. (Item #3918)