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Books of Instruction. 0601: Anon., The New Universal Primer, or An Easy Book, suited to the tender capacities of children

Author: Anon.
Title: The new universal primer, or an easy book, suited to the tender capacities of children. Authorised by His Majesty King George. To be used throughout Great Britain and Ireland. Adorned with cuts
Cat. Number: 0601
Date: No date but c.1800
1st Edition:
Pub. Place: Derby
Publisher: J. Drewry
Pages: 1 vol., 73pp.
Size: 11 x 9 cm

Images of all pages of this book

Page 003 of item 0601

Introductory essay

This primer is remarkable for the amount of material compressed within its 73 pages. As well as all manner of alphabets - in various scripts, illustrated, in verse - and lists of syllables and words, all of which is standard for a primer, we have here prayers, dialogues, hymns, stories and much more. Excerpts from Isaac Watts are included (p.34), for instance, as are extracts from the bible (p.44). The Ten Commandments are set out (p.31), as well as a relatively lengthy section of 'Select Moral Sentences', designed to facilitate 'practice on the monosyllables' (p.47). The whole has a tone not dissimilar from the classic John Newbery books of the mid-eighteenth century, though this primer was probably published in the years around 1800. The wood-cuts are charming but rather crude, rather in the manner of those which adorned Newbery's early books (see for instance the lion on p.25). Similarly, the brief tale of 'little Master Tommy', depicted sitting before his book wearing a three-cornered hat, who received a 'Plumb Cake' because he was so 've-ry di-li-gent at his book', and learned a hymn by heart in single day, is reminiscent of the bribery which Newbery employed to fix the attention of his readers attention to their books (p.33).

John Drewry was publishing in Derby from at least 1789, when he produced James Pilkington's A View of the Present State of Derbyshire to 1832, when he published a Register of all the Freemen of the Borough of Derby. Irrespective of which end of this range the Universal Primer dates from, Drewry of Derby was clearly a little behind the current London fashions in children's books.