The Rational Dame; by FENN, Lady Eleanor (1743-1813).

FENN, Lady Eleanor (1743-1813).

The Rational Dame; or, Hints towards supplying Prattle for Children. London, John Marshall, circa 1784-1786.

First Edition. 12mo (166 x 100 mm), engraved frontispiece and pp. [iv], xviii, 19-115, [1] errata, with nine further engraved plates in the text, closed tear to one plate, some browning in the text and some foxing, evidently a much loved copy, binding a little bit sprung, in contemporary unlettered sheep backed marbled boards, worn and rubbed at extremities, with the contemporary ownership inscription of Mary Ann Oates on the front endpaper (written up against the edge of the paper: Oat/es), large manuscript ‘M’ on the half-title (for Mary?) and ‘Mrs Oates 1/2 0 d’? on errata leaf.

‘In making amusement the vehicle of instruction, consists the grand secret of early education’

First edition of this delightful and beautifully illustrated natural history book for children. Presented in easy sections, starting with Animals, which are divided into Whole Hoofed, Cloven Hoofed and Digitated, also with Pinnated (seal) and Winged (bat), followed by Reptiles and Insects, which are divided into seven sections. An index is supplied after the text, which is accompanied by nine engraved plates depicting some ninety native mammals, reptiles and insects. The final plate includes an illustration of a book worm. In the Preface, Fenn sets out her philosophy of education, concluding that the ‘Rational Dame’ of the title should be ‘a sensible, well-informed Mother’. The second part of the Preface contains ‘Extracts from Superior writers, whose sentiments agree with those of the Compiler of this little volume’.
‘To form the constitution, disposition, and habits of a child, constitutes the chief duty of a mother... Perhaps nothing could more effectively tend to infuse benevolence than the teaching of little ones early to consider every part of animated nature as endued with feeling; as beings capable of enjoying pleasure, or suffering pain: than to lead them gently and insensibly to a knowledge how much we are indebted to the animal creation; so that to treat them with kindness is but justice and gratitude. We should inculcate incessantly that man is the lord, but ought not to be the tyrant of the world’ (Preface).
The frontispiece, which shows a mother taking her two children on a nature walk, is by Royce after Daniel Dodd. This was a very successful publication for John Marshall, who went on to publish a further five editions, all undated and all similarly scarce (ESTC t206781, t168244, t122971, n23617, with combined locations: BL, Bodleian, NLW, Birmingham, Yale, UCLA, Columbia, Lilly, Toronto, Penn and Virginia). A Dublin edition was also published, by T. Jackson, in 1795 (ESTC t168223, at Cambridge, NLI and Rylands).

ESTC t46303 lists BL, Bodleian, Birmingham, Indiana and UCLA.

Osborne I, p. 199 (second edition).

Keywords: Children
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