(Amsterdam: W. Holtrop, 1781). 178 x 108 mm. (7 x 4 1/4"). 18 p.l., 3-58,  pp. FIRST EDITION.
Contemporary quarter calf over speckled paper boards. A TOTAL OF 33 VERY CHARMING ENGRAVED PAGES comprising the title page, the following page with calligraphic alphabets, four other full-page illustrations (comprising mathematical shapes, multiplication table and system using digits of hands, vowels and consonants with small exemplary pictures, and the solar system) and 27 half-page illustrations showing scenes of childhood, commerce, laboring, and domesticity, these and the first two leaves done on heavy stock, the engravings by L. Brasser, N. van der Meer, C. Bogerts, C. Brouwer, B. de Bakker, J. Condet, and H. Numan after designs by the author in collaboration with P. Wagenaar den Jongen. Hesselink and Kerssemakers 87. Small chip to head of spine with older repair, corners a little bumped, three leaves with short closed marginal tears, A1 lightly soiled, occasional mild browning or foxing, but still an extremely pleasing copy, the text clean and fresh, and the original insubstantial binding solid and showing no significant signs of use.
This is an utterly charming "A-B-C" book in remarkably good condition for a work intended for young children. The main source of delight is the group of 27 half-page engraved scenes used to illustrate the letters of the alphabet (apparently to show God's greatness, there are two engravings for the letter "G"). Given their emphasis, these scenes seem not so much intended to be charming as to stir up Dutch society (beginning with its youth) to embrace a sense of patriotism as part of a larger movement toward democracy, enlightenment, and industriousness. Even so, each vignette provides (at least to us) an abundance of pleasure: for "C," we see children in school learning arithmetic; for "D," laborers building a dike; for "Q," a night scene showing a quack plying his bogus wares on a lit-up stage; "L" stands for linen, as industrious women are shown outside their vine-covered cottage processing the plant and spinning the fibers. The perfect family appears in an elegant bourgeois interior, the mother nursing her baby and the father overseeing the deepening of character and the embrace of maturity on the part of his children. There are some exotic localities in these scenes, but mostly they picture comfortable households or laborers hard at work in spare workshops, neat cottages, or well-managed construction sites. A professor of law, Swildens (1745-1809) worked on the present book for three years, designing the illustrations after getting expert advice from many quarters about the best subject matter to use in order to achieve his lofty ends. The work is quite scarce outside of the Netherlands, with OCLC locating just five copies in U.S. libraries. (ST12567)