Today we continue our series of Ada Lovelace Day posts with this superb Regency-Era book on trigonometry that was finely bound and inscribed from the author to a young woman named Elizabeth Whitbread in 1810.
Author Thomas Keith (1759-1834) was a mathematician and educator who became Professor of Geography to Princess Charlotte of Wales in 1810. Among his many publications were works
The recipient of this volume was probably Elizabeth Waldegrave (1791-1843), the elder daughter of the politician Samuel Whitbread II (heir to the brewing fortune) and wife of the Earl of Waldegrave. Whitbread was a radical reformer, abolitionist, and proponent of a national education system, so it is safe to assume that Elizabeth was very highly educated, almost certainly beyond what was considered normal for young women of her station.
Keith was probably a family friend and may also have been her tutor, and it is likely that he first met the Whitbreads as part of the milieu around Princess Charlotte. Elizabeth's mother and father were close confidantes and political allies of the Princess at a time when it was controversial (her mother Queen Caroline having been expelled from court), and all three members of the family appear regularly in Lady Charlotte Campbell Bury's tell-all diary of court life.
However they met, it is clear from the warm inscription and lavish, personalised binding that this was an important presentation. Of course, books were often presented to friends and patrons who had no direct connection with the contents, but this unusual and intriguing example raises the possibility that Elizabeth Whitbread enjoyed mathematics and shared a friendship with Keith based on mutual academic interests.