Philadelphia: Lang & Ustick, 1796. First edition. Contemporary calf, completely unsophisticated. Some chipping to foot of spine; front joint splitting near crown but sound. Extremities a bit rubbed. Early gift inscription to front endpaper: "Rachel Pearson presented her by her sister L. Pearson 1799 March." Offsetting to pastedowns, but internally less foxing than is typical for the period. Collating , 102: complete, with Evangelical Review bound to front rather than rear, and with page 102 misnumbered 120 as called for by ESTC. A scarce example of children's educational literature being printed in the new Republic, authored by a woman. ESTC reports only 8 institutionally held copies, and only one copy appears in the modern auction record 40 years ago. The present is the only example on the market.
During and after the Revolution, women had an opportunity to press and expand on their social roles, particularly as they related to education. "Women who had run households in the absence of men became more assertive...and enlightened thinkers knew that a republic could only succeed if its citizens were virtuous and educated" (U.S. History). Leveraging their roles as caretakers, many American women pushed for improvements in their own educations under the justification that they needed knowledge in order to properly instruct the next generation that would shape the new nation. "As in the case for abolition, changes for women would not come overnight. But education would lead to the emergence of a powerful and more outspoken middle class of women" (U.S. History). An early sign of this shift was an increase not only in educational tracts being printed in the U.S., but also being authored by women. The present is such an example. Released only 20 years after the Declaration of Independence and only 8 after the ratification of the Constitution, Neale's work reveals much to us about women's place in the field. The opening six line poem on the title page in one sense supports male intellectual superiority; but it undercuts this notion by presenting women as more capable of making the pursuit of knowledge enjoyable. A pre-release review bound into the book supports this. "The author has succeeded; and she has rendered her work so interesting, that we found it difficult to lay the book aside until we had got through it. Her plan of improving the minds of young people in useful branches of education, unites pleasure with instruction." Neale accomplishes this engaging success by using a format that would become a gold standard for future didactic texts by women: distilling more complex information into familiar forms by presenting them as domestic dialogues. Beginning with Amelia's arrival at Mrs. Smith's Amusement Hall, readers are introduced to a small group of young people who raise questions, explore answers, and learn in a variety of fields, teaching the reader as they do.
Evans 29987. ESTC W11618. (Item #3947)