The Schoolmaster’s Assistant aka a new (old) smelly book!

Even though I am a semi-hoarder (okay a card carrying hoarder) of old smelly books, I just can’t stop visiting the websites of my favorite sellers who fuel this addiction! So, a few months ago I stumbled upon, bid and bought this little beauty,

‘The Schoolmaster’s Assistant, being a Compendium of Arithmetic both Practical and Theoretical’ ~ 1797 by Rev. Thomas Dilworth

This book is not pristine by any means, but it is very interesting and very old. I did a little research, and it turns out that this was a very popular math book in Great Britain and America during the mid to late 18th century.  It was apparently brought to Boston by English Schoolmasters and used before, during, and after the Revolutionary War.

Rev. Thomas Dilworth was an English cleric and schoolmaster who not only authored this mathematics book, but was also the author of a popular literacy textbook, “A New Guide to the English Tongue”, that was known to be used and owned by Noah Webster as well as Abraham Lincoln.

After this book’s preface, which is really a letter to the schoolmasters who will teach from this book, there is an essay written by Dilworth entitled, ‘On the Education of Youth, and Essay’. It is humbly dedicated to the consideration of parents.  In this letter he writes about the importance of an education and then he lists some specific instructions (or as he says, some particulars) to the parents about their responsibility in making sure the education given to their children by the schoolmasters has not gone to waste. I am not a teacher, but I’m sure that modern-day educators would totally agree with Dilworth’s “particulars” today!

I will paraphrase (a lot) but here is what he says about education and parents:

1. Constant attendance at school is necessary for a good education.
2. Parent’s should not let their commands go counter to the masters.
3. Parent’s should be aware of their own children’s defects and not expect more out of them than they are capable of mastering.
4. Children should be aware of the scandal in telling a lie.
5. Injustice against their fellow classmates is not allowed.
6. Immoderate anger and a desire for revenge should not be tolerated at home or school.
7. Don’t believe everything your child says about what’s happening at school.
8. They must get used to the little hardships at school to improve their learning.
9. Children aren’t always taught the same friendship, peace and harmony at home that they are taught at school.

I doubt if teachers today can be as forthright with their students’ parents as Dilworth was back in the 1700’s!

But the last few paragraphs of this essay really astounded me and made me really like Rev. Dilworth. He concluded his essay with his thoughts on the “fair sex” which I have included here in its entirety:

While I am speaking of the education of children I hope I shall be forgiven if I drop a word or two relating to the fair sex — It is a general remark that they are so unhappy as seldom to be found either to spell, write, or cypher well : and the reason is very obvious, because they do not stay at their writing schools long enough. A year’s education in -writing is, by many, thought enough for girls, and by others it is thought time enough to put them to it, when they are eighteen or twenty years of age, whereas by sad experience, both these are found to be the one too short a time, and the other too late. The first is a time too short, because, when they are taken from the writing school they generally forget what they learnt, for want of practice : and the other too late because then they are apt to look too forward, imagine all things will come of themselves without any trouble, and think they can learn a great deal in a little time ; and when they find they cannot compass their ends as soon as they would, then a very little difficulty discourages them : and hence it is that adult persons seldom improve in the first principles of learning as fast as younger ones. For a proof of this, I ap peal to every woman, whether I am just in my sentiments or not. The woman who has had a liberal education this way, knows the advantages that arise from a ready use of the pen ; and the woman who has learnt little or nothing of it, cannot but lament the want of it. Girls therefore ought tobe put to the writing school as early as boys, and continued in it as long, and then it may reasonably, be expected that both sex es should be alike ready with their pen. But for want of this, how often do we see women, when left to shift for themselves in the melancholy state of widowhood, (and what woman knows that she shall not be left in the like situation ?) obli ged to leave their business to the management of others, sometimes to their great loss, and sometimes to their utter ruin ; when, on the contrary, had they been ready at their pen, could spell well, and understand figures, they might not only have saved themselves from ruin, but perhaps have been mistresses of good fortunes. Hence then may be drawn the following, but most natural conclusion, “

A man ahead of his time it seems!

There are so many things I love about handling these great old books, the great old covers, the old timey printing, and of course the school boy graffiti!




3 thoughts on “The Schoolmaster’s Assistant aka a new (old) smelly book!

  1. I’m an ex-teacher so I find a lot of what he says remarkably apt for today. I now run education services for an education authority in London – and if it wasn’t for the fact that people frequently don’t adhere to numbers 1, 2, 3, 7 and 9 it’d be pretty much out of a job! Sounds like a fascinating book – graffiti and all!

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