London: J. Harris, 1814. First edition. Publisher's quarter roan over marbled boards with gilt to spine. Measuring 135 x 85mm and collating complete with frontis: , viii, 172. Gentle bumps to corners and light wear to boards; overall square and firm. Contemporary ownership signature of M. H. Long to front pastedown. Rear endpaper partially adhered to pastedown. Offsetting to front endpapers, title page, and dedication leaf, else internally clean and unmarked. A scarce juvenile education book focused on the items middle class British children would encounter in their households, OCLC reports 9 institutionally held copies. The present is the only example on the market.
"Little is known of the life of Maria Elizabeth Budden, but in the early years of the 19th century she gained a reputation as a writer for children, both via her didactic fiction and her True Stories series of history books intended for the young. Her books promote home precepts of obedience, industry, humility, and striving for self-improvement, invariably insisting that these are the only way to virtue and therefore to happiness" (Course). Her books were in such demand that for a time she was producing a minimum of one a year for her publisher. The present education book positions her among other women of the period who recognized that little girls might not have the same access to scientific, economic, or political education as their brothers who might go to formal schools or take European grand tours. A solution across these fields was to use domestic and local spaces as sites of exploration. "Although there have been many excellent explanatory works published for children, there has not yet appeared a concise and simple elucidation of the several articles of daily use and daily consumption." Here, Budden encourages girls and women to realize that the most mundane materials at home offered opportunities for learning about international supply chain, craftsmanship and artisanal practices, and other cultures. In English homes filled with the products of imperialism, Budden points to the importance of recognizing and studying domestic objects that have not originated in Britain. So among the numerous familiar contents of the book are things homemade such as bread, butter, and ink alongside products of slavery and imperialism: China, coral, cinnamon, cocoa, ivory, rum and sugar. Using the dialogue form made popular by women citizen scientists of the previous century -- Jane Marcet notable among them -- Budden's Mother talks to her daughters Louisa and Helen about these materials, their histories and their origins, with the young girls' questions leading the narrative. Among the more positive aspects of the book is this: the encouragement of girls' curiosity and the acknowledgement that the home is not disconnected from a wider, complicated world. (Item #4964)