The Life and Perambulation of a Mouse. by KILNER, Dorothy…

Nimble the mouse in 46 woodcuts
KILNER, Dorothy (1755-1836).

The Life and Perambulation of a Mouse. In Two Volumes. Vol. I [-II]. London, John Marshall, ca. 1790.

Two volumes, engraved frontispiece to each volume and pp. [iii]-xii, [13]-91; [iii]-xi, [i], [13]-84, [6] advertisements, title-pages engraved with calligraphic lettering and vignettes, with 46 part page woodcut illustrations in the text (25 + 21), both volumes skilfully rebacked, with new endpapers, the final leaf of the first volume (which was torn, just touching one letter, and a little stained) laid down, final leaf a little stained, title-page of Vol. II with offsetting from the dark impression of the plate, in the original Dutch floral boards with the dominant blue dye particularly noticeable in the first volume.

A delightful set of a scarce children’s book, generally acknowledged to be Dorothy Kilner’s best work. In it she follows the loveable mouse Nimble in his escapades through various households. Kilner’s desire to instruct children is a given, but this is carefully achieved through entertainment as children are encouraged - both through the text and the illustrations - to enjoy following the mouse in his travels. The text is accompanied by two full-page frontispieces and a total of 46 woodcut illustrations in the text. These illustrations capture not only numerous hilarious incidents involving the mouse’s interaction with the the humans of the story but also portray charming details of daily life and childhood occupations.
The introduction to the second volume reads: ‘It is now some months ago since I took leave of my little readers, promising in case I should ever hear any further tidings of either Nimble or Longtail, I would certainly communicate it to them: and as I think it extremely wrong not to fulfil any engagement we enter into, I look upon myself bound to give them all the information I have since gained, relating to those two little animals; and doubt not but they will be glad to hear what happened to them, after Nimble was frightened from the writing table by the entrance of my servant’ (p. vii).
In the Guardian of Education, Kilner’s friend Mrs Trimmer described this work as ‘one of the prettiest and most instructive books that can be found for very young readers. A book, indeed, which Mothers and even Grandmothers may read with interest and pleasure’.
First published in a single volume complete in itself in 1783. This is one of several editions of the two volume work to be printed by Marshall. In this edition, ‘To the Reader’ is signed ‘M.P.’, as in Mary Pelham (after Maryland Point), the pseudonym of Dorothy Kilner, and is undated. The catchword on I, 15 is ‘colours’ and below the imprint in both volumes the price is given as ‘Price Six Pence in Gilt Paper’.

ESTC t92772, at BL, Bodleian, Harvard, Miami, North Carolina at Greensboro, Southern Mississippi and Yale.
Gumuchian 3506; Osborne I p. 273 (the single volume first edition, imperfect).

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