BUNYAN, John (1628-1688). A Book for Boys and Girls: or Temporal things Spiritualized. London: for R. Tookey, 1701.
8° (153 x 91mm). Collation: A-B8. In verse. Title, 'To the Reader' (3pp). (Repair to upper inner margin throughout; B2 rehinged and with neat repair; B4-6 and final leaf strengthened at inner margin; neat repairs to lower margin of A1 and C1, occasional repairs to tips of corners.) 19th-century blue morocco, spine titled in gilt, gilt turn-ins, edges gilt (corners slightly bumped). Provenance: Richard Jackson (contemporary inscriptions on verso of title and final leaf); George Taylor (inscription on verso of title dated '1731/2'); Cardiff Castle bookplate.
A VERY GOOD COPY OF THE SECOND EDITION: ALL COPIES OF 17TH- AND 18TH-CENTURY EDITIONS ARE EXTREMELY RARE. The work was first published in 1686, with the sub-title Country Rhimes for Children, but only two copies of this are recorded. It included 74 rhymes, as well as alphabets and lists of numbers and boys' and girls' names. Later editions, such as the present, seem to be shorter: the present contains a verse preface and 49 rhymes. The ESTC records only two copies of the 1701 edition: one in the British Library and one in the Bodleian. The only other editions recorded by the ESTC are the 9th edition of 1724 (one copy) and the 18th edition of 1757 (three copies). Bunyan's ability to write for a young audience has long been admired, and made the work an enduring favourite: Christopher Hill notes that "The genre was relatively new, and Bunyan was its most appealing practitioner. His poems are enjoyable because he himself obviously enjoyed observing and writing them. He wrote with gusto and wit" (A Turbulent, Seditious, and Factious People, Oxford: 1988, pp.270-3). Bunyan's sharp observation of everyday situations (hens in a farmyard, a snail, a loaf of bread) and his amusing and arresting dialogue must have caught his reader's attention, and the easy couplets, perhaps copied from some hymns, may have helped the poems to live in his audience's memories. Hill comments that: "It was . . . 'a voice children would understand', distinguished by a gentleness unknown to other contemporary Baptist writers." The work was reprinted (including a popular facsimile edition) until the end of the 19th century. Cf. Harrison 36.