[INTRODUCTION] Abbott’s “The Young Astronomer” (Shaw’s Pet Book)

As being an English Major may already infer, I don’t have a strong pull to the sciences. Something that has often intrigued me, however, is scientific history and how notions of how the universe functions have changed over time. This project provides a perfect opportunity for this kind of discovery.

Within Special Collection’s reserves, I searched for books on Astronomy, a field of study often perceived as easy to approach. I was pleased to find a copy of John S. C. Abbott’s The Young Astronomer; or the Facts Developed by Modern Astronomy, a pocket-sized textbook published in 1875. It’s designed for children, but it is also made clear that the information contained is… “collected for the use of schools and the general reader” on the title page. The preface describes the contents of the book as simply the facts with as straightforward language and description as possible, in order to make the most palatable outline of the study of astronomy as possible. As a text, this is the perfect source for me to observe for my personal studies how astronomy was perceived and what was known about astronomy 143 years ago. As a physical object, it provides many clear elements and historical links for study and research for this project.



This book immediately draws the reader in with the gold-stamped vignette (displayed above) on blind stamped red cloth with an elegant but simple pattern. The blank spine and the top back side of the book don’t hold the same maroon vibrance like the rest of the cover due to light damage. There’s a small scratch in the cloth on the very front cover (also visible in the above photo). The contents within are kept simple: Two title pages, a preface, a table of contents, and ten chapters. Each title page gives most all the worthy information and publishing data. The table of contents gives brief descriptions of what is contained within each chapter. Each chapter has a clear topic, sparse but informative illustrations (such as the one on the left), and questions at the end to assure its status as a textbook. No appendices or epilogue are present, rather it is simply the information needed to gain an understanding of what was known about astronomy in the 19th century.


The inside of the very start and end display many other books distributed by the publisher: Allman. The Allman name is repeatedly used in this display of other published works, advertising Allman’s Popular Elementary Series of Works For Learning Foreign Languages in the front and Allman’s Poetical Floral Outlines for Illuminating and Allman’s New Series of School Histories in the back. I find it an interesting publishing choice that no books by Abbott are advertised in the inside of the cover. The only mention of other works by Abbott is briefly on the second title page, citing him as the author of Mother at Home and Child at Home. Other elements of the book’s creation that are immediately noticeable and interesting include: the use of signature marks consistently throughout the book, the relegation of the printing information to the very end of the book subtly at the bottom of the last page, and the fact that this is a “New Edition corrected to the present time by Barbara R. Bartlett. This last notion is particularly interesting because it speaks to Abbott and the publisher’s understanding of many sciences as developing and changing fields. When being written about, they need to be constantly followed to ensure the information being spread is as accurate as possible for what is known about the field.  Making it clear that they are checking the information in each edition speaks to their supposed credibility and validity. Additionally, it holds a place in the Eastman collection as noted on the book plate.

Most of the wear to this printing of The Young Astronomer is on the cover. Some of the pages are worn but it doesn’t look like it was used in a constant classroom environment like one may suppose. There’s a slight note on the first title page labeling this book as “Volume 7” however it is unclear why this number was assigned to this book. There isn’t much damage to the pages, although a small slip is cut out of one of the very front pages for a reason unknown. There’s slight staining on the first and last pages, but this doesn’t appear anywhere else in the book. There’s a dull red sprinkling on the page foredge, a common design choice. The stitching in the binding can be seen in almost every page, however, it is still held together very well. There are 14 stitches through each page, seemingly a lot for such a compact book.

There are many small mysteries and trails that could be followed during future research of this book. I feel as if this book will be a perfect pet for me.