First edition. Inscribed presentation copy. Rebound in nineteenth-century purple cloth with gilt red morocco title label to the spine. Illustrated with 3 hand-coloured plates (complete). A very good copy, the binding square and tight with rubbing to the boards, fading to the spine and loss to the title label. The contents with two plates trimmed to the margin at the foot (causing the loss of the imprint to one) and scattered foxing to the text pages (heavier to pp.25-49), are otherwise in good order, the hand-coloured plates remain bright.
Inscribed by Priscilla Wakefield in ink to the head of the title page: "To Mrs Valpy with the / authoress's kind regards / Jan 4 / 1826". Priscilla Wakefield (1751-1832) was a Quaker philanthropist, social reformer, proponent of female education and writer of numerous works on natural science. She was also the author of the notable feminist work "Reflections on the Present Condition of the Female Sex; with Suggestions for its Improvement", which was brought out under the radical publisher Joseph Johnson in 1798, and through which she argued for greater educational and employment opportunities for women. Wakefield was most widely known, however, for her popular educational works for children, especially those regarding botany and natural history, of which she had a very great knowledge. Most strikingly, these encouraged girls to become not only participants in the study of the natural world but also active contributors to the production of scientific knowledge. The present work, based upon her earlier "An Introduction to the Natural History and Classification of Insects" (1816), certainly reflects this, taking the form of a series of letters between two women engaged in scientific study and discussion, and thus serving to indicate to young female readers the possibility of their own involvement in practical scientific endeavour out in the field. Through such publications, which found a large readership amongst the growing middle class, Wakefield became not only the first woman to write scientific books for children, but also one of the most influential female authors of the early nineteenth century. The recipient, "Mrs Valpy", was likely a member of the literary Valpy family of schoolmaster and popular textbook author Richard Valby (1754-1836) and his son, the publisher Abraham Valby (1786-1854), whose 'The Pamphleteer' series - "a collection of the best pamphlets of the day" - included contributions from William Wilberforce and Jeremy Bentham (ODNB). Works inscribed by Wakefield are exceedingly rare, and no other inscribed copy of this particular work can be traced.
Stock code: 18048