London: Published by B. Tabart & Co. at the Juvenile & School Library, 1810. First edition. Contemporary quarter morocco over marbled boards, rebacked with gilt to spine. Measuring 125 x 105mm and collating complete in 8 pages with hand-colored frontis and 8 hand-colored plates. A Near Fine copy in and out, with minimal rubbing to boards. Occasional marginal soiling, and archival reinforcement to fore-edge of title page and to a small hole in pages 3-4 not affecting text. OCLC notes no institutional copies of this small text, though Moon documents incomplete copies at UCLA and the Lilly. There are no other examples on the market.
An influential teacher, essayist, and women's activist, Barbauld was one of the later generation members of the Bluestocking Circle which had included Maria Edgeworth and Hannah More. The daughter of Presbyterian dissenters, she was trained early on in classical and modern languages, history, and literature; this access to knowledge shaped her work as she pushed for the expansion of women's education. Though much of her work was addressed to young women, her series of four age-adapted reading primers titled Lessons for Children (1778-1779) initiated a revolution in children's literature in the English-speaking world. "The work is still regarded as a landmark in the approach to the reading of the very young child. The secret of Barbauld's success was that, for the first time, she wrote for a child that was maturing as they progressed through the books. The prose became successively more complex, using longer words, less facile subjects, and more complicated narrative structures. The book was printed in a large, clear typeface, with large gaps between the words, designed to facilitate an adult pointing to each successive word" (Hockliffe Collection). In content and form, the series was revolutionary.
The present children's book takes one of Barbauld's lessons and versifies it for even younger readers. Replicating the typography of the original series, it also includes charming illustrations of the narrative to guide small readers and keep their attention. Within the text, a Mother sends her small son to school and admonishes him to work hard. When he meanders through the woods instead, seeking to make friends with various creatures, the natural world chides him for idleness as an ant, a sheep dog, a goldfinch, a horse, and a honey bee each inform him of the important work they do. It is his part to do his, and so he resolves to attend to his lessons.
The effectiveness of this versification led to later editions, in 1819 and 1822 respectively.
Moon 44.1. (Item #4988)