Item #1160 Esther Taggart’s Manuscript Work Book. Esther Taggart.
Esther Taggart’s Manuscript Work Book.
Esther Taggart’s Manuscript Work Book.
Esther Taggart’s Manuscript Work Book.
American Woman’s Manuscript Arithmetic Work Book Prepared for the Mercantile Trade

Esther Taggart’s Manuscript Work Book.

Middletown (CT.?), 1814. Item #1160

Folio.  320 x 200 mm., [12 ½ x 8 inches].  424 leaves.  Textblock sewn with original drab paper wrappers.  Wrappers with a few tears and folds at the edges, some staining, and a few ink marks; otherwise, a remarkably well preserved manuscript work book.

Fine example of an early American arithmetic work book, filled with examples applicable to the mercantile or dry goods trade.  Includes exercises in simple addition, addition of Federal Money, simple subtraction, subtraction of Federal Money, simple multiplication and the application and use of multiplication in making out bills, determining quantity and finding the value of goods.  This part includes examples of establishing the cost of paper, pairs of men’s shoes, bushels of oats and other grains and food commodities.  This is followed by exercises in division, compound addition, Sterling money, weights and measures, Troy weight, Avoirdupois, apothecaries, cloth, wine, and the measurement of land.

Of the examples we especially note math problems, concerning distances on the East Coast, including New York to Philadelphia; a wine merchant’s dwindling quantity of ‘pipe wine’; and a tailor’s bill for materials and making of a silk coat, vest, and buttons.”    A final question to be solved reads as follows:  “The war between England and America commenced April 19, 1775, and a general peace took place January 20th 1783, how long did the war continue?”  Miss Taggart’s calculations break down the problem into years, months, and days to arrive at the correct answer. 

The contents of the manuscript suggest that Ms. Taggart may have been training to work in a commercial setting, selling goods such as the one listed in the fictional Bill of Parcels.  Although it is well known that women, especially wives of the owners of general stores, managed the business side of a mercantile enterprise, it is very rare to have an exercise book, penned by a woman that documents the method of learning complex mathematics and business practices.

In this case Esther Taggart was very proud of the work she was doing, and she signed the book four different time; once on the inside cover; once on p. 9 “Esther Taggart’s Manuscript”; once on p. 45, again signing it “Esther Taggart’s Manuscript”, and finally on the inside rear wrapper. 

Although we are not sure which New England town named Middletown was Esther’s home, we think it was Connecticut.  On the sample “Bill of Parcel” that appears on the verso of leaf 11, the example cites New London as the origin of the invoice. 


Price: $5,000.00

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