An 18th-century catechism for children


One of our recent purchases is a catechism for children printed in Edinburgh (Shelfmark: AP.3.210.09). It was written by an anonymous ‘Well-wisher to the Education of Children’. The text was at first drawn up for the private instruction of a girl when she was between four and five years old and then added to as she grew up, until she was twelve or thirteen; it was finally published in 1751.

The child's catechism

In the 17th century, Robert Leighton, bishop of Dunblane, had argued for simpler catechisms. His catechism for children was printed posthumously in 1695 in Edinburgh (we hold a copy at shelfmark: Ferg.92). A number of similar children’s catechisms, with shorter and simplified texts, were printed in Scotland in the first half of the 18th century. In the preface to our new acquisition it is noted:

‘that the author has studied a natural plainness [sic] and simplicity of stile [sic], a thing much wanted in productions of this nature, and which few attained to; … he has studied to give this performance the air of dialogue, which by the best critics is judged the easiest and most entertaining way of writing and teaching.’

Our new holding is one of only three known copies (the other two are held outside the UK) and includes ‘Some forms of prayer for children’ at the end.

Further reading: