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Geography and Travel. 1056: Isaac Taylor, Scenes of Commerce

Author: Taylor, Isaac
Title: Scenes of commerce, by land and sea; or, 'Where does it come from?' answered. For the amusement and instruction of tarry-at-home travellers
Cat. Number: 1056
Date: No date but c.1830
1st Edition:
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: John Harris
Price: Unknown
Pages: 1 vol., vi + 387pp.
Size: 17 x 10.5 cm
Note: Frontispiece and plates are dated 1830.

Images of all pages of this book Note: these have NOT been verified or catalogued. Use with care.

Page 003 of item 1056

The Taylors of Ongar, in Essex, between them produced a great many books for children. The sisters Anne and Jane were most famous for Original Poems for Infant Minds (see 0851-0854), and their father Isaac for his Scenes of... series, published by John Harris between 1818 and 1830, of which this is one. Isaac Taylor (1759-1829) was also an engraver, like his own father, and a non-conformist preacher.

The conceit with which Scenes of Commerce begins is that a breakfast argument has broken out between the children about where tea and sugar come from. Lucy, the youngest, thinks the grocer makes them. Her older siblings say different, but it is for the father, at the request of the mother, to step in with his 'scenes of commerce' to settle their debate. The lessons which follow take in all the substances in the breakfast room, and over a period of days move on to many more commodities.

At the close of the book the family take a trip to the counting house of a Mr. Freeport, a city merchant, who undertakes to explain all the less tangible aspects of commerce. Even Emma and her mother go, for the father had enlightened views on female education (see pp.299-300). Mr Freeport first urges the importance of book-keeping to the children. 'This was spoken like a merchant, like a British merchant, with whom the term good man means, one who is punctual in his payments' (p.302). Freeport also explains terms like 'creditor', 'debtor', 'bills of exchange', 'factors', and so on (pp.299-309).

Next the family visit the Custom House. Its business is explained, and smuggling is vociferously deplored. Not only does it penalise lawful merchants, but the smugglers become vicious and even murderers. 'A young lady who, at some of the gay watering-places, buys, in an underhanded manner, a few yards of silk, or a piece of lace, quite cheap, little thinks what mischief she is supporting, what immorality she encourages' (p.313).

Finally, the reader is provided with 'A Concise History of Commerce' (pp.314-79). This has been drawn up by the father to show 'how much a better medium of power it is than conquest and the sword' (p.314). The process of commerce is traced up from Biblical times, through ancient Egypt, Carthage and Rome, to China and the east, and especially Venice. This is a highly detailed and very wide-ranging account, although English commerce in this pre-modern era is scarcely mentioned. The account comes to an end with a description of British activity in India and the hegemony of the East India Company. 'May the commerce of the British realms long flourish!' the book concludes, 'Especially as it is becoming, by the favour of Divine Providence, the means of conveying the Bible, with the temporal, spiritual, and eternal blessings of the Gospel, to all nations under Heaven!' (p.379)