Large 4to, pp. xi, , 35, [3 (blank and index)], with 27 folding engraved patterns on thin paper (all with a certain amount of foxing and offsetting), blank corner torn from C4; a very good copy in the original drab boards, printed labels on front and spine (the latter partly missing), spine neatly restored preserving most of the original backstrip.
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The Lady’s economical Assistant, or the Art of cutting out, and making, the most useful Articles of wearing Apparel, without Waste; explained by the clearest directions, and numerous engravings, of appropriate and tasteful patterns. By a Lady. Designed for domestic Use.
First edition, very rare and in excellent state, of the first English guide to tailoring to feature full-size patterns, and indeed only third of any sort in the language. The author has recently been identified as Anne Streatfield, of Uckfield – see Arnold, ‘“The Lady's Economical Assistant” of 1808’, in Barbara Burman (ed.), The Culture of Sewing: Gender, Consumption, and Home Dressmaking (1999).
The first English book on the art of cutting out and making clothes was Instructions for cutting out Apparel for the Poor (1789), directed principally towards clothing children at Sunday-schools but ‘useful for all families’; this was followed by a guide for professionals, The Taylor's complete Guide (1796). Like the Instructions, The Lady’s economical Assistant was a domestic guide, intended for the instruction of women and girls in the art of home dressmaking. The principal aim here was economy, and the author went to considerable trouble to calculate the widths and lengths of various materials ‘so as to cut out wearing apparel to the greatest advantage, not only for my own family, but also for the poor’, by reducing wastage. She recommends tracing the patterns onto thin paper and then cutting them out so as to avoid damaging the patterns in the book, an inevitable fate of many books of this sort.
Seligman, Cutting for all!, 1808.1; OCLC and Library Hub together locate copies at the BL, bodley, V&A, LACMA, Yale, Smith College, and BnF.
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