Wethersfield [Connecticut]: no publisher, 1832. Octavo, measuring 8 x 5 inches: 95, . Contemporary three-quarter sheep, marbled boards, spine lettered and double-ruled in gilt, all edges speckled blue. Wear to spine, first blank excised, with part of the clean cut affecting gutter of title page, dampstain in gutter of title page, text block with expected light embrowning and infrequent foxing.
First edition of American educator Joseph Emerson’s Poetic Reader, a collection of literary selections designed to be read aloud. Influenced by the work of English reformer Hannah More, Emerson and his wife Rebecca Hasseltine founded an academically rigorous women’s seminary in 1816, moving the school to Wethersfield, Connecticut in the 1820s. The seminary trained young women as teachers, providing a systematic, advanced curriculum for female students at a time when a woman’s education was considered primarily ornamental. Emerson’s progressive approach influenced Mount Holyoke founder Mary Lyon, who counted Emily Dickinson at one point among her students. The Poetic Reader opens with lengthy instructions on how to read aloud in public, including notes on articulation, stress, and cadence. Nearly two hundred reading exercises follow, passages drawn from popular English poets including John Milton, Alexander Pope, and Thomas Gray: “Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen, / And waste its sweetness on the desert air.” A very good copy, rarely seen in acceptable condition.