This afternoon I was tidying in the Special Collections when I came across a letter relevant to the provenance of the Baines Collection. I thought I would share with you some of this information in terms of piecing together the existing information with the content of the letter and give you some idea of what is contained in this fascinating collection. Before I do this, however, I must acknowledge the work of my colleague Antony Daws did in researching the genealogy of Baines Family for I have used some of his findings below.
The Baines Collection of children’s books was donated to the Ministry of Education between 1955 and 1962 by Miss Margaret Eyre and her niece Alicia Constance Percival. Only the children’s books came to the Institute in 1992 from the Ministry (which had by this date, changed its name to the Department of Education) and other items in the Baines/Eyre/Percival collections are held by other archives and repositories. The two most notable collections of material are the Baines/Percival papers in the Bodleian Library, and Eyre Papers in the Pitt-Rivers Museum. The Victoria & Albert Museum also holds a Burmese wall hanging donated by Miss Eyre.
The majority of the books in this collection belonged to the children of the Reverend Edward Baines, Miss Eyre’s maternal grandfather and many of them have hand-written dedications or the names of their original owners, nineteen of whom are members of the family of Miss Eyre’s mother, Lucy Dorothea Eyre (née Baines) (whose father was Edward John Baines [1801-1881] vicar of Bluntisham in Huntingdon, and later of Yalding in Kent). Other books in the collection can be linked by dedication to members of the extended Eyre and Percival families.
Margaret Eyre (9/12/1874 – 11/8/1963) was the only child of Gervas Selwyn Eyre (1851 – 1920) and Lucy Dorothea Baines (1849 – 1938). Further information about Miss Eyre is contained in book published by Alicia Percival which is entitled ‘Aunt Margaret : reminiscences of Margaret Eyre 1874-1963, compiled in 1974 by her niece, Alicia C. Percival’. Copies are available in the British Library, Bodleian, and the Women’s Library (which also holds Alicia Percival’s personal papers). The biography includes material written by Miss Eyre.
Alicia Percival (1907-1987) was a trained teacher who, after the Second World War became the Vice Principal and then Principal of Forest Training College (1945-1950), and later Vice Principal and Principal Lecturer in Education at Trent Park Training College (1950-1966). She wrote several books on education as well as a study of the Victorian writer Charlotte M Yonge (London: Harrap, 1948) which she co-authored with Margaret Mare. Some of her books are in the Institute’s Library. She was awarded a Ph.D. at the Institute of Education in 1968.
A letter was found in one of the books in the Collection (Royal Reader No. 1) which provides evidence both of how children were taught to read at home by family and confirms that the collection was deposited in parts and not as a complete collection in 1955 as it was previously thought. Alicia Percival reminisces, “I learnt to read from this book, when I was 4 ½ years old. My grandmother, Constance Baines, taught me in her bedroom every morning. I remember the earlier lessons from a paper book called STEP BY STEP quite well, but these less vividly.” Unfortunately, I have not been able to find this book but I suspect she meant Pinnock’s 1859 First Steps to Knowledge.
The collection consists of 200 books which date from 1700 to 1920. There are both story books and books of general knowledge prepared for children’s recreation and instruction in the 18th, 19th and the early part of the 20th centuries. They include readers, geography and history books and books on the use of grammar. There are also many fiction books, many of which have a moral theme.
Some of the books were clearly used by adult members of the family to understand the philosophy and techniques of teaching and imparting moral instruction. These include the 1762 edition of Rousseau’s Émile , Smith’s 1858 publication entitled The parents cabinet of amusement and instruction and the 1785 edition of The pleasing instructor, or Entertaining moralist : consisting of select essays, relations, visions and allegories collected from those eminent English authors to which are prefixed new thoughts on education edited with an introduction by A. Fisher. Although there are a few foreign language items, most of the books are in English.
This is a rich collection of primary sources for anyone researching the history of literacy, moral instruction and education in England from the 19th to the first two decades of the twentieth centuries. The books are listed in the Library Catalogue and can be requested to be viewed in the Archives Reading Room.