[FENN, Lady Ellenor (1744-1813). The Spelling Box. The Grammar Box. The Figure Box. London: J. Marshall and Co., c. 1785].
Approximately 732 cards printed with a letter, word, phrase, number or picture ranging in size from 20x10mm to 153x80mm, representing parts of 36 card sets and additions, original wrapper for one set of cards, contained in 3 wooden boxes (Spelling, Grammar, Figure) each divided into compartments with pin-hinged lids, one retaining its label 'The Grammar-Box', printed labels identifying the contents pasted inside lids, silk ribbon lifters (two lids missing from one box, 3 lids detached, silk lifters frayed, a few minor repairs), the boxes fitting into a mahogany case (225x180x115cm) banded in ebony, shallow lid with two brass hinges, fitted brass lock (repaired splits on lid, some loss of ebony band on bottom); 4-page contents and price list of the boxes, advertising Lady Fenn's The Art of Teaching in Sport (London: J. Marshall & Co., c.1795), laid in.
A RARE SURVIVAL OF A 'SET OF TOYS', an 18th-century pedagogical plaything designed by Lady Ellenor Fenn. Influenced by the educational theories of Rousseau and Locke of learning through play, Lady Fenn was "a pioneer in the development of modern child-centered pedagogy" (Immel). She instructed mothers in the use of the Set of Toys in her book The Art of Teaching in Sport. The mother retains control of the box, giving it to her child as a privilege for supervised play, introducing it at moments when he may be most receptive to learning. The box consists of cards, enabling children to focus on a single letter, number or image or in endless combinations, which could be customised according to the age and ability of the child, and replaced and augmented over time. It is therefore impossible to speak of a "complete" set. The printed advertisement accompanying the present Set of Toys lists 48 different elements available for purchase, of which 36 are represented here in whole or part; a further 65 cards are also included. Although produced from about 1783 into the 1820s in some form, very few Sets of Toys survive. Immel located only two others apart from that in the Cotsen collection: the Osborne Set consists of a Grammar box only, and a Set in a private collection consists of a Figure and Print box. THE PRESENT SET IS SURPASSED IN COMPLETENESS ONLY BY THAT IN THE COTSEN COLLECTION, itself a fairly recent discovery and acquisition. It almost certainly dates from c.1785 and is thus one of the earliest Sets printed. Cf. A. Immel, "Mistress of Infantine Language": Lady Ellenor Fenn, Her Set of Toys and the "Education of Each Moment", Children's Literature, vol. 25, 1997, pp. 215-28; J. Shefrin, "'Make it a Pleasure and Not a Task' Educational Games for Children in Georgian England', Princeton University Library Chronicle, vol. 60, 1999, pp. 251-275.