Blog Archives

The exact age of a young lady

In the eighteenth century many works appeared on the market that were designed for "young ladies". Lately I have been wondering about the exact age of this specific readership. According to the oed, "until late in the 19th cent. girls at boarding schools were spoken of and addressed as young ladies", while Bottigheimer (2005:10) points out that "young gentlemen and ladies" "could be as young as thirteen or fourteen or as old as young people at the age of their independent entry into society". I, however, believe that the term was also used to refer to slightly younger girls. Please reply to this post if you know more about the topic. I look forward to hearing from you. 

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Jane Johnson’s Manuscript Nursery Library

While attending the Acts of Reading: Teachers, Texts and Childhood from the 18thc to the present day conference in Cambridge, I found out all about Jane Johnson and her nursery library. The Jane Johnson’s Manuscript nursery library consists of material devised by Jane (Russell) Johnson (1708-1759), wife of the Reverend Woolsey Johnson (1696-1756), between 1740 and 1759 for the instruction of her children. The materials consist of 438 items and are arranged in 24 groups. Included are alphabet, word and story cards, and secular and religous lesson cards, all hand-made. Some of the cards contain coloured illustrations and are decorated with multi-coloured Dutch paper. Set no.7 is of great interest since it has the largest group of materials. According to the Lilly Library, it includes "78 word chips denoting chiefly food products such as Ale, Almonds, Bacon, … , Veal, Water, Wild-fowl, housed in a small paper box decorated with playing card symbols cut from a Dutch-made paper".

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Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum

A reconstruction of a schoolroom of the early eighteenth century can be seen at the Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum in Great Ayton, North Yorkshire. For more information see the following website
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Jane Austen and Lowth’s grammar-

In The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, David Chrystal states that "Jane Austen would have arrived at School (Abbey School, in Reading) at a time when Lowth’s Grammar was well established and a second generation of ‘young ladies’ was having its tenets instilled into them" (2001:77). Does anybody know whether or not Jane Austen studied Lowth’s A Short Introduction to English Grammar (1762)?

Hannah Glasse: The First Domestic Goddess

On Wednesday 31 January the documentary "Hannah Glasse: The First Domestic Goddess" was shown on BBC 2. Hannah Glasse (1708-1770) was the author of The Art of Cookery (1747), a cookery book which was reprinted 33 times within 50 years and which was the best-selling cookery book of the 18th century. Glasse’s cookery book included the first curry recipe published in Britain!For those of you who missed the documentary, have a look at the following website: If you have access to ECCO you can even have a look at this popular 18th century cookery book yourself.


Susan Burney Letters Project

I recently came across the Susan Burney Letters Project website.This project by Nottingham University sets out to make the 330 letters and letter-journals of Susan Burney, Fanny Burney’s younger sister, widely available for the first time. According to the project’s website, Susan’s letters and letter-journals ‘provide a uniquely informed account of English musical culture, a chronicle of some of the period’s major political events and valuable insights into the social status and occupations of an educated woman.’ 

Learning through play the Georgian way.

On 7 June 2006, a copy of Ellenor Fenn’s Set of Toys (consisting of a Grammar, Spelling and Figure Box) was sold for £16,800 at Christie’s Valuable Manuscripts and Printed Books sale. See also Jim McCue’s article "Learning through play the Georgian way" which can be found here.

Family Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century England

While I was in London last week I bought Kate Redford’s book The Art of Domestic Life. Family Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century England (Yale University Press 2006). If you’re interested in eighteenth-century art, I am sure that you will love this book. According to the YUP " [Redford’s book] offers important insights into both the innovations and traditions in family portraiture of this period, drawing on in-depth research into paintings, the lives of the sitters depicted, and the domestic spaces in which portraits were hung" 

British Fiction, 1800-1829: A Database of Production, Circulation, and Reception

I recently came across an interesting website entitled "British Fiction, 1800–1829: A Database of Production, Circulation, and Reception" ( The website "allows users to examine bibliographical records of 2,272 works of fiction written by approximately 900 authors, along with a large number of contemporary materials (including anecdotal records, circulating-library catalogues, newspaper advertisements, reviews, and subscription lists)". It also includes an article on subscription lists:

P. D. Garside, ‘Subscribing Fiction in Britain, 1780-1829’, Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 11 (Dec 2003): <>.  

Hyde Collection Catablog

For those of you interested in eighteenth-century books and their former owners why not have a look at John Overholt’s Hyde Collection Catablog ( As the cataloguer of the printed book portion of the Donald and Mary Hyde Colllection of Samuel Johnson, his friends, and contemporaries (at Harvard University), Overholt has created a blog to share some of his discoveries. The blog also contains a useful entry which tells you how to search the manuscript collections in the Hyde Collection.