Alembic Blog

Victorian Women & STEM Education: A Prize Book Awarded by the Edinburgh Ladies' Educational Association

Tomorrow is Ada Lovelace Day, when we celebrate women in the sciences, so over the next few days I'll be highlighting recent acquisitions that show the long history of women's engagement with STEM subjects. The first is a copy of John Herschel's Outlines of Astronomy that's directly connected to the Victorian movement for women's higher education.

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Victorian Machines & Manufacturing: The Boy's Book of Industrial Information

New in the shop is The Boy's Book of Industrial Information, a delightful illustrated children's book on Victorian technology.
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Doodling in Your Math Book: An 18th-Century Arithmetic Manuscript

One of our recent acquisitions is a delightful 18th-century math workbook that shows how little things have changed as far as doodling during your lessons goes.

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An Elegant Regency Era Mathematical Manuscript

Was your math homework this beautiful? The elegant problem above is from a 170-page trigonometry manuscript created during the Regency Era by a student who was probably studying for a career in the British navy.

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A School Prize Binding Inscribed by William Thomson, Baron Kelvin

Today's featured book is a wonderful find - a volume given to a student by the famous physicist William Thomson, Baron Kelvin. Though Thomson is best known today for his groundbreaking work on energy and heat, including the development of the temperature scale that bears his name, he also had an important career as a teacher, and this book is inscribed to one of his physics students at the University of Glasgow.

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Victorian Infographics: Reynolds's Pictorial Atlas of Arts, Sciences, Manufactures, & Machinery

One of the most exciting aspects of recent print & design culture is a renewed emphasis on infographics. But we're certainly not the first generation to be caught up in the visual display of information. In Europe and the United States the Victorian Era saw a flowering of infographics as the industrialisation of printing made it easier and cheaper to create books with detailed colour illustrations.

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Seeing Inside: The Golden Age of Anatomical Flapbooks

Today almost everyone has seen inside a real human body. We have access to an incredible array of visual resources: high-resolution photographs, x-rays, MRI scans, videos of surgical procedures, and even the cryogenic slices of the Visible Human Project. But throughout most of history there were only a few options - viewing bodies in real life, which was generally not very pleasant and sometimes illegal; as expensive hand-made models; and as illustrations. Among the most interesting of anatomical texts from this period are flapbooks. Rather than depicting the body statically as in most book illustrations, they are an attempt to create a deeper understanding of organ systems as they relate to each other in three dimensions, with the viewer an active participant who "dissects" the body by opening the flaps.

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A Quaker Education Part 2: Priscilla Wakefield's Introduction to Botany

Last week I wrote about a fascinating mathematics textbook "for the use of young ladies" by a Quaker education reformer, and how members of that religious community played an outsized role in the push for women's education and civil rights. Today I catalogued another book written, with young women in mind, by a Quaker activist: An Introduction to Botany in a Series of Familiar Letters, by Priscilla Wakefield.

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A Quaker Education: William Gawthrop's Arithmetic for Young Ladies

Some of my favourite books to have in the shop are the ones that combine my interests in science and women's history, and today I had the pleasure of cataloguing a rare and delightful book on mathematics for "the use of young ladies". The Scholar's Introduction to Arithmetic; Designed for the Use of Young Ladies and the Junior Classes in Boys' Schools was published by William Gawthrop in Liverpool, probably in the 1820s or early 1830s (an owner's signature in this copy is dated 1832). It speaks to us not only about mathematics teaching in early-19th century Britain, but also about the history of women's education and the role that the Quaker religious community played in its advancement.

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