Lessons for Children

Anna Letitia Barbauld (1743-1825), Lessons for Children, in Four Parts. Wood engravings designed by S. Pike and engraved by Alexander Anderson (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1818) Graphic Arts Collection (GAX), Hamilton 265

Anna Laetitia Aikin (later Mrs. Rochemont Barbauld) and her brother John began publishing small books in 1773. When Anna adopted John’s son, Charles, she began writing a series of books for children, including Lessons for Children in 1778 and Hymns in Prose for Children in 1781. Anna was a dedicated teacher and hoped these volumes would introduce “elements of society’s symbol-systems and conceptual structures, inculcate an ethics, and encourage [children] to develop a certain kind of sensibility.”

As depicted in the image shown above, the text is meant to be a personal dialogue between mother and child. The books were printed in large type with wide margins making them easy to read for all ages. Their popularity led to numerous editions in several languages. Anna and her brother also collaborated on the six-volume Evening at Home, or The Juvenile Budget Opened; The Farm-Yard Journal; and Books of Stories, or, Allegorical Instruction and Entertainment, from Animated Creation, for Children.

Graphic Arts is fortunate to hold copies of all these books as well as the original wood-engraved block for one illustration from Lessons for Children.