University of Delaware Library


Books of Instruction

In eighteenth century books for children, the main concern was imparting religious and moral instruction and a code of social behavior. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, there was a movement to extend the child's education beyond basic literacy. Books began to appear in the homes of the growing middle class. The books, however, still needed an educational and moral component in order to be considered appropriate for young people. Everything the child did or saw could be used as a means of instruction. To make the instruction more accessible, the books often used a conversational approach of question and answer. Clearly, however, these conversations were really a monologue on the part of the adult and didn't attempt to reproduce the actual style of a child's discussion.

John Ward of Chester.
The Young Mathematician's Guide: Being a plain and easy introduction to the mathematicks: With an appendix of practical gauging. London: Printed for A. Bettesworth, and F. Fayram, 1728.

In the preface to the Guide, originally published in 1706, the author explains that the book can be used by students lacking even the rudiments of mathematical education if they are willing to spend the time to work through it. He warns, however, that the book is "plain and homely, it being wholly intended to instruct, and not to amuse or puzzle the young learner."

Priscilla Wakefield, 1751-1832.

The Juvenile Travellers: Containing the Remarks of a Family during a Tour through the Principal States and Kingdoms of Europe: with an account of their inhabitants, natural productions and curiosities. London: Darton and Harvey, 1801.

Wakefield was a prolific writer of children's books that combined useful knowledge with moral improvement. The Juvenile Travellers, one of her most popular, went into nineteen editions in fifty years. In the preface, the author says, "It is desirable that childen...should be acquainted with the prominent features in the character and manners of the inhabitants of other countries... But, as books of travels are not written for children, they are generally unfit for their perusal, many of them containing passages of an immoral tendency."

Mrs. (Jane Haldimand) Marcet, 1769-1858.
Conversations on Cymistry, in which the Elements of that Science are Familiarly Explained, and Illustrated by Experiments, and Plates. Philadelphia: Printed, and sold by James Humphreys, on Change Walk, corner of Second and Walnut Streets, 1806.

Conversations on Chemistry was one of the first simple scientific text books. It used a conversational question and answer format that contained a great deal of specific information. It was popular for many years, selling over 160,000 copies in America in the fifty years after its publication.

Marmaduke Multiply's Merry Method of Making Minor Mathematicians, or, The Multiplication Table. London: Printed for J. Harris and Son, 1816-17.

This small book consists of a series of rhymes, accompanied by amusing illustrations, to teach the multiplication tables to young children.

Isaac Taylor, 1759-1829.
Scenes in America, for the Amusement and Instruction of Little Tarry-at-home Travellers. London: Printed for Harris and Son, 1821.

The Reverend Isaac Taylor wrote a series of books for children describing all parts of the world, including Asia, America, Africa, and Europe. Each of the books included eighty-four engravings and a foldout map and were available either plain or colored.

Friend to Youth. A Catechism of Mechanics: being an easy introduction to the knowledge of machinery. London: Printed for G. and W.B. Whittaker ..., 1823.

Friend to Youth is one of an eighty-three volume series of books of instruction for children known as "Pinnock's Catechisms" which contained questions and answers on subjects ranging from history to business to poetry. William Pinnock (1782-1843) was a British schoolmaster and bookseller who published the books in very inexpensive editions. Many authors worked on the books which were extremely successful.

The Pictorial Arithmetic for Children. Hartford, Conn.: E.B. & E.C. Kellogg, 1842.

Unusually large and clear illustrations are matched with simple mathemetical concepts in this textbook for elementary school students.

Oliver Byrne.
The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid, in which Coloured Diagrams and Symbols are used instead of Letters for the greater ease of Learners. London: W. Pickering, 1847.

This very unusual and rare work uses colored diagrams to represent shapes and symbols. Byrne's stated goal was to appeal to the eye and to imprint the subject on the mind of students; a very early example of visual learning. The book is also an excellent specimen of color printing as colored illustrations are used throughout the text rather than on separate color plates.

Annie Cole Cady.
History of Pennsylvania, In Words of One Syllable. Chicago, New York: Belford, Clarke & Co., 1889.

This late nineteenth century social studies textbook actually contains many words of more than one syllable, but these words are divided for easy pronunciation

John Staples Locke, 1836-1906.
Little Folks' History of the United States. Boston: De Wolfe Fiske & Co., 1893.

More of a souvenir than a textbook, Locke's History was probably sold at the Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

N. K. Fairbank Co.
Fairbank's Juvenile History of the United States. Chicago: N.K. Fairbank Co., 1916.

This charming booklet was illustrated by W. W. Denslow, who made the drawings for The Wizard of Oz. The Company, makers of Fairy Soap, donated copies of the book to schools across America.

Introduction Early Works Fables and Fairy Tales Primers Poetry Popup and Movable Books Stories before 1850 Stories after 1850


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