Turner, Richard | An Easy Introduction to the Arts and Sciences

  • Second edition of this charming educational book with the contemporary or near contemporary ownership signatures of three different young women, an excellent material representation of 18th century changes in women's education.

    During the 16th and 17th centuries girls' education focused on practical skills such as "needlework, preserving fruit, making medicines for the household, and keeping accounts" (Martin, Wives & Daughters, p. 213). But during the Georgian era, while the goal was still to "produce girls who would be a credit to their parents, and would eventually make good marriages" (Martin, p. 213), a new emphasis was placed on polite learning, including history, art & literature, and natural philosophy, as a sign of social status.

    An Easy Introduction to the Arts and Sciences, while not written specifically for young women, is a good example of an educational book suited to contemporary women's education. It covers a wide variety of subjects, including ancient and religious history, natural phenomena, astronomy (of particular interest is a wonderful plate depicting the solar system), literature, grammar & rhetoric, geography, and mythology. Much of the text is given in the conversational question and answer format that was popular during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This style reflected a growing female, middle class audience for this type of knowledge, as well as contemporary beliefs about the importance of informal conversation to children's mental training (Cohen, "Familiar Conversation", Educating the Child in Enlightenment Britain, pp. 99-116). Indeed, the fact that books of this type were considered suitable for young girls is testified to by the three contemporary or near contemporary ownership signatures that appear here, "Margarate [sic] Haymes", "Mary Ann White", and "Mary Hantt".

    The author of the present volume, Richard Turner (1753-1788), was the son of the clergyman and educational writer of the same name. "His six extant published works were written primarily for the education of young people. The first, An heretical history, collected from original authors, in which is shewn the origin, doctrine, and changes of the several religious systems of the earlier Christian world, appeared in 1778... Subsequent general introductions to the arts and sciences, geography, and history were all either written ‘in series of letters to a youth at school’ or described as ‘adapted to the use of schools and academies’" (ODNB). An Easy Introduction to the Arts and Sciences was one of Turner's most popular works; published in 1783 it reached its 19th edition by 1825, being reprinted until at least 1832. A nice, unsophisticated copy and uncommon, particularly in the first and second editions. Worldcat locates only two copies of the second edition and one of the first, all at the British Library.

  • Being a Short, but Comprehensive System of Useful and Polite Learning. Divided into Lessons. Illustrated with Cuts, and Adapted to the Use of Schools and Academies. The Second Edition. London: for S. Crowder, 1787. Duodecimo (150 x 90 mm). Contemporary speckled calf, spine compartments ruled in gilt. 8 engraved plates. Two contemporary ownership signatures in ink to the front free endpaper, one in pencil to the rear pastedown. Hinges cracked, deep worn spot to the centre of the spine, some wear at the corners and ends of spine, just a little spotting to early leaves, otherwise contents clean. A very good, unsophisticated copy.