London: H. Hughes for J. Walter, 1773. First Edition. Two volumes bound in one. Contemporary speckled calf with five raised band and red morocco label to spine. Joints cracked but holding firm; small chips to spine extremities. Top corners rubbed. Internally a pleasing copy, with offsetting to pastedowns and endpapers, but none of the foxing typical of this era. Measuring 90 x 155mm and collating vi, , vii, 200; , 230: complete, including titles for both. Currently the only first edition on the market, with only three other copies selling in the modern auction record (2016, 1976, and 1960).
Initially released anonymously and in a small quantity, Letters on the Improvement of the Mind was written by famed Bluestocking Hester Chapone, whose name appeared in all later editions. Compiled in the volumes are Chapone's advice to her 15 year old niece, encouraging the girl's education across the fields of scripture, economy, geography, literature, and history. "Hitherto you have 'thought as a child and understood as a child,' but it is time to 'put childish things away.' You are now in your fifteenth year, and must soon act for yourself; therefore it is high time to store your mind with those principles which must direct your conduct and fix your character." Chapone explains that this best occurs when a young women has an understanding of history and the world around her; and that this knowledge will improve her character by teaching her how to govern herself and navigate all situations public and private. For Chapone, the rise to womanhood is an emergence into independent selfhood. As an educational and conduct manual for young women, Letters became a sensation in its own time, with 28 new editions being rapidly released beginning that same year. An important, forward-thinking treatise on the education of young women.
ESTC T65784. Feminist Companion to Literature 195. Near Fine (Item #4012)