A Mental Museum for the Rising Generation... containing The Declaration of Independence by Jesse Torrey Jr., 1829

Torrey, Jr. Jesse. A Mental Museum for the Rising Generation. With an Appendix, Containing the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the First Free Circulating Library &c. : Designed for the Middle Classes of Readers in American Schools and Families. Adapted to American Customs and Manners, and Proposed as a Substitute for Foreign Compilations Or Reading Lessons. Philadelphia: Thomas Desilver, 1829. 16mo. In original gilt stamped leather and paper boards with a new archival slipcase. 

This is a first edition printing of Jesse Torrey Jr.’s A Mental Museum for the Rising Generation. Published in Philadelphia by Thomas Desilver in 1829, this beautiful book is presented in its original gilt stamped leather and paper boards. Divided into three sections, this book was “designed for the middle classes of Readers in American Schools and Families.” Collectors will appreciate this prime example of early childhood educational text, as well as consider it for its Appendix, which includes very early printings of The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the First Free Circulating Library

A Mental Museum for the Rising Generation was one of several books written by Torrey to entertain, instruct, and edify children and young adults. The book is divided into three parts, as indicated on the title page, “PART I - Familiar conversations on Natural History and the Universe, Reflections on Providence, etc. Part II - Lessons calculated to excite a taste for Reading and Mental Improvement - on Industry, Economy, Preservation of Health, etc. Part III - Various Instructive and Entertaining Articles and Poetry.” The Appendix contains a very early printing of The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, as well as the Constitution of the First Free Circulating Library.

Jesse Torrey, Jr., (1787 – 1834) was an American physician, writer, and ardent advocate for abolition, the American education system, and free public libraries. Torrey is most celebrated as an abolitionist who gathered first-hand narratives of African Americans and eye-witness accounts by white observers of slavery and kidnapping. He published these, along with his personal observations, in an early 1817 anti-slavery book, A Portraiture of Slavery in the United States. Torrey also wrote juvenile guides to moral philosophy, natural history and government. 

Torrey argued that young readers were important to the early American imagination of its populace, both in terms of the reading public and the broader national community of citizens. He believed that children were not merely witnesses to American history and governance, but rather young reading practices played a crucial role in establishing a free, educated, and engaged populace.  To this end, Torrey was the founder of the free public library movement in the United States. In 1804, at the age of 16, he established the Library of the “New Lebanon Juvenile Society for the Acquisition of Knowledge.” This organization was the first free lending library in the nation. Torrey’s passion for education drove him to petition Congress for a network of free public libraries and schools across the country, enlisting President James Madison to his cause. 


Good condition overall, considering age and past use. 16mo. Presented in original gilt stamped leather and paper boards. Wear to original boards, but the book has been cleaned and stabilized by a book conservator. The interior pages feature foxing and mild to moderate staining. Past ownership autograph and original letterpressed book label of Col. Elisha Camp, of Sackets Harbor, New York. The book is presented with a new, archival slipcase with a Declaration of Independence inlay on the front.

Dimensions: 7 5/8" H x 4 5/8" W x 1 1/8" D (Book). 7 7/8" H x 4 3/4" W x 1 1/2" D (Slipcase). 

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