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Adams, Hannah.

Abridgement of the History of New England, for the Use of Young Children, An.


Adams, Hannah. An Abridgement of the History of New England, for the Use of Young Children. Boston: Printed for the Author and for Sale by B. & J. Homans and John West, July, 1805.
12mo., contemporary full sheep; red morocco spine label, stamped in gilt; expertly rebacked, preserving the original spine; some light foxing; discrete leather bookplate of Frank C. Deering on front endpaper.
First edition of an uncommon little book, Adams's abridgement of her second book, A Summary History of New-England (Dedham: Mann & Adams, 1799). American Imprints 7830. That first book had been at the center of a ten year legal battle, for the Reverend Jedidiah Morse and the Reverend Elijah Parish beat her to publication of their own classroom history, exploiting a market that was rightfully hers, as she had only proceeded with her work after consulting with them and being assured that their book would not appear as a rival. With public opinion aroused against him, Morse took the matter to arbitors, who delicately stated that while he had broken no laws, it was true that Adams had clearly suffered at his hands and that he should make reparations. When he took this to mean a simple apology rather than monetary compensation, he was railed against further. In 1814 he went so far as to publish a 190-page history of the matter, by which time Adams had been provided with an annuity by several friends, among them William S. Shaw, the director of the Boston Atheneum, Stephen Higginson, Jr., and Josiah Quincy.
Hannah Adams (1755-1831), a distant cousin of U.S. President John Adams, is known as the first American woman scholar to earn a living as a professional writer, though she never realized substantial profits. Her works have been described as impressive compilations from many sources "woven together with skill, clear and readable" (DAB, 60-61). She received an informal but thorough grounding in Greek, Latin and Hebrew from theology students who boarded at her father's house. She became an avid reader of history and theology and published a number of scholarly texts, including her massive Alphabetical Compendium of the Various Sects Which Have Appeared From the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Present Day (1784), which stemmed from her notes compiled on various religions during her reading of Thomas Broughton's An Historical Dictionary of All Religions. C. Conrad Wright notes that Adams's work "stood out among similar compilations because of the wide range of sources used and the author's scrupulous attempt at impartiality." Her work merited multiple editions, both in the United States and in England. "The second edition, entitled A View of Relgions," he notes, "was sufficiently profitable for the author to pay off accumulated debts and set some money aside." ("Adams, Hannah," in NAW I, 10).
A View of Religions would be her most lasting success. Her later works include The Truth and Excellence of the Christian Religion Exhibited (1804), History of the Jews (1812; London, 1818; Leipzig, 1819-20), Letters on the Gospels (1824), and her posthumous Memoir (1832), "written partly to raise money for her ailing younger sister."

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