[To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read”]

The Ladder of Learning (1839)

Put simply, The Ladder of Learning is a little handful of a book (4.5 inches high and 3.75 inches wide) with enormous charm. As the title implies, the theme is education: an unnamed young boy leads us through 10 steps on his way to learning a trade. Diligence is emphasized, with the young scholar “rising so early" in order to learn his lessons; a cumulative inventory of his intellectual accomplishments reinforces the idea that education builds on prior learning. The rhyming text is a lively read.

As charming—especially for later readers—are the 13 wood engravings of little scholars reading, figuring, and reciting, perched on chairs too tall for them, or seated on low stools, with chairs as desks. Several of the sprightly illustrations are signed by Alexander Anderson (1775-1870), credited as the first wood engraver in the United States; he created at least one of the illustrations in the Connecticut edition of Scott’s Family Bible, the first work published by Samuel G. Goodrich. The illustration for “Justice” (page 19) is mirrored in a wood engraving used at least twice in Slave’s Friend.

Ladder was published in two other editions by Babcock, in 1830 and 1838. Presented here is the 1839 edition.


http://www.merrycoz.org/books/ladder/LADDER.xhtml
The Ladder of Learning; To Be Ascended Early in the Morning (New Haven, CT: S. Babcock, 1839)
back and front covers

-----
[front cover]

BABCOCK’S NO. 4 TOYS.
THE
LADDER OF LEARNING;
TO BE
ASCENDED
EARLY IN
THE MORNING.
——
1839.

NEW HAVEN, CT.

-----
[frontispiece; sideways in original]

little boys in a classroom

Here are little heads well fill’d—some in learning greatly skill’d;

Yet examine every face, pleasure only you can trace.

-----
[title page]

THE
LADDER OF LEARNING;
TO BE ASCENDED
EARLY IN THE MORNING.

a woman and a boy admire a lake
NEW HAVEN:
S. BABCOCK,—CHURCH STREET.

———
1839.

-----
[p. 4]

a man teaches two children

-----
[p. 5]

THE LADDER OF LEARNING.
——
a boy sits on a stool, using a chair as a reading desk

First Step in the Ladder of Learning.

SPELLING.

This is the boy who got up early in the morning,

And then set his foot on the Ladder of Learning

The first step was spelling;

The boy was quite willing;

-----
p. 6

He soon learn’d to spell,

And that very well,

By rising so early one fine summer’s morning,

And setting his foot on the Ladder of Learning.

——

Second Step in the Ladder of Learning.

READING.

Would you know the next step in this Ladder so high?

It is reading, I tell you—your lessons go ply:

By thus taking heed,

He soon learn’d to read

A good lesson indeed;

He knew how to spell,

So correctly and well,

By rising so early one fine summer’s morning,

And setting his foot on the Ladder of Learning.

-----
p. 7

a boy writes at a round table

Third Step in the Ladder of Learning.

WRITING.

Again he rose early, the morning was bright,

The next step ascended was learning to write.

At first he so clumsily handled the pen,

He needed instructions again and again;

But when he grew careful, and kept his book clean,

His writing was better, and fit to be seen;

-----
p. 8

By thus taking pains, he soon wrote a good hand,

His lines were so even, his letters well plann’d.

He wrote a good hand,

With letters well plann’d;

And also could read

A good lesson indeed;

He knew how to spell,

So correctly and well,

By rising so early one fine summer’s morning,

And setting his foot on the Ladder of Learning.

-----
p. 9

a boy studies math

Fourth Step in the Ladder of Learning.

TABLES.

To get all the tables was then his next task;

But what were these tables? permit me to ask;

Of measures and weights, numeration, and pence,

And multiplication—which puzzled his sense.

By close application he master’d all these,

And now he is ready for sums when you please.

-----
p. 10

His tables by heart

He answers quite smart;

He writes a good hand,

With letters well plann’d,

And also can read

A good lesson indeed;

He knows how to spell,

So correctly and well,

By rising so early one fine summer’s morning,

And setting his foot on the Ladder of Learning.

-----
p. 11

a boy writes on a slate

Fifth Step in the Ladder of Learning.

ACCOUNTS.

By strict application he still higher mounts,

And the power of numbers learns by accounts—

To add and substract—to reduce—multiply—

Division he’ll master with ease by and bye.

These rules when attained and thoroughly known,

Are for mathematics like good seed well sown.

-----
p. 12

Correct in accounts,

He gives the amounts;

His tables by heart

He answers quite smart;

He writes a good hand,

With letters well plann’d,

And also can read

A good lesson indeed;

He knows how to spell,

So correctly and well,

By rising so early one fine summer’s morning,

And setting his foot on the Ladder of Learning.

-----
p. 13

a boy reads a book

Sixth Step in the Ladder of Learning.

GRAMMAR.

All to grammar his thoughts he next quickly turns,

And nine sorts of words which he finds he soon learns;

Of words he makes sentences well to agree

In case, gender, number, and mood, you will see;

He words to their stations with ease can command,

So that he who may read will each understand.

-----
p. 14

He now speaks grammar

Without a stammer;

Correct in accounts,

He gives the amounts;

His tables by heart

He answers quite smart;

He writes a good hand,

With letters well plann’d,

And also can read

A good lesson indeed;

He knows how to spell,

So correctly and well,

By rising so early one fine summer’s morning,

And setting his foot on the Ladder of Learning.

-----
p. 15

a boy talks to an old man

Seventh Step in the Ladder of Learning.

TRUTH.

We all admire and love the noble youth,

Who, from his heart, dares firmly speak the truth.

As from the Lion bold, or cruel Bear

He would escape—a lie he learns to fear;

These crooked, wicked, odious ways he shuns,

And in the pleasant paths of virtue runs.

-----
p. 16

He learned in his youth

To tell the whole truth,

And now speaks grammar

Without a stammer;

Correct in accounts,

He gives the amounts;

His tables by heart

He answers quite smart;

He writes a good hand,

With letters well plann’d,

And also can read

A good lesson indeed;

He knows how to spell,

So correctly and well,

By rising so early one fine summer’s morning,

And setting his foot on the Ladder of Learning.

-----
p. 17

a boy gives money to an old man

Eighth Step in the Ladder of Learning.

KINDNESS.

The kind and the civil, whoever they are,

Or wherever they go, will find the best fare;

For as like begets like, so is kindness repaid—

They know it, who have through affliction to wade;

Each day of your life, then, evince your good nature

By a courteous kindness to every creature.

-----
p. 18

To be civil and kind,

He now was inclined;

He learned in his youth

To tell the whole truth,

And now speaks grammar

Without a stammer;

Correct in accounts,

He gives the amounts;

His tables by heart

He answers quite smart;

He writes a good hand,

With letters well plann’d,

And also can read

A good lesson indeed;

He knows how to spell,

So correctly and well,

By rising so early one fine summer’s morning,

And setting his foot on the Ladder of Learning.

-----
p. 19

a boy frees a bird

Ninth Step in the Ladder of Learning.

JUSTICE.

Let justice, and mercy, and kindness, and truth,

First bud in your childhood, then blossom in youth;

Good fruit in abundance, I then dare engage,

Shall ripen in manhood to solace old age.

When man injures man, he can plead his own cause,

And justice demand in the court of our laws;

But the poor injur’d brute cannot there bring his case

Against man who is cruel, oppressive, and base.

-----
p. 20

In the high court of heav’n his wrongs are recorded:

There his groans are all heard and his plea is regarded.

Then deprive not the beast of his food, rest, or pleasure,

Lest you be repaid in the same scanty measure.

When justice is barr’d from the least little action,

With her will escape all your heart’s satisfaction:

Your Bible so tells you, your interest so says,

“Do justly, love mercy,” and you shall have praise.

’T is justice that leads

Each step that he treads;

To be civil and kind,

He now was inclined;

He learned in his youth

To tell the whole truth,

And now speaks grammar

Without a stammer;

Correct in accounts,

He gives the amounts;

His tables by heart

He answers quite smart;

He writes a good hand,

With letters well plann’d,

And also can read

A good lesson indeed;

He knows how to spell,

So correctly and well,

By rising so early one fine summer’s morning,

And setting his foot on the Ladder of Learning.

-----
p. 21

a boy removes his hat in a glowing landscape

Tenth Step in the Ladder of Learning.

GRATITUDE.

Ungrateful the sands on Arabia’s plain,

They drink up the showers, but produce us no grain!

Not so our enclosures—their kind fertile soil

Our barns well replenish, and pay for our toil.

What do we possess, which to us was not given,

By parents, by friends, or a bountiful heaven?

-----
p. 22

Then before we repose on our pillows for slumber,

May our hearts often melt while our blessings we number;

And, like our rich meadows, our gratitude shew,

By acknowledging favors both ancient and new.

Thus grateful he grew

For old favors and new;

While justice thus led,

Each step he would tread;

To be civil and kind,

He now was inclined;

He learned in his youth

To tell the whole truth,

And now speaks grammar

Without a stammer;

Correct in accounts,

He gives the amounts;

His tables by heart

He answers quite smart;

He writes a good hand,

With letters well plann’d,

And also can read

A good lesson indeed;

He knows how to spell,

So correctly and well,

By rising so early one fine summer’s morning,

And setting his foot on the Ladder of Learning.

-----
p. 23

a man introduces a boy to his employer

GOING TO A TRADE.

Thus rising so early each fine summer’s morning,

And step by step climbing this Ladder of Learning,

The youth learn’d to spell

Both correctly and well,

And also could read

A good lesson indeed;

He wrote a good hand,

With letters well plann’d;

-----
p. 24

His tables by heart

He answer’d quite smart;

Correct in accounts

He gave the amounts;

And then spoke grammar

Without a stammer;

Thus early in youth

He spoke the whole truth;

To be civil and kind

He was mostly inclin’d;

While justice still led

Each step he would tread,

And so grateful he grew

For old favors and new,

He may now go apprentice to some useful trade,

And evince the good progress in learning he made.

If sober, and honest, and pious, he prove,

His gains will be many, his friends will him love.

As justice, and mercy, and kindness, and truth,

Did bud in his childhood and blossom in youth,

Good fruit in abundance, we now may presage,

Will ripen in manhood and solace old age.

-----
[back cover]

back cover, text below
JUVENILE AND TOY BOOKS.
PUBLISHED AND FOR SALE
BY S. BABCOCK, NEW HAVEN.

The New Robinson Crusoe, 16mo. with 17 large cuts,

The Picture Reader, a Sequel to the Picture Primer,

The Picture Primer, designed as an Introduction to the Picture Reading Book,

The Southern Primer, or Child’s First Reading Book, 18mo.

The Western Primer, 18mo. with numerous embellishments,

The Southern and Western Primer, do. do.

The Nursery Tutor, or Buds of Learning, 16mo.

United States Table Book, or Arithmetic made easy, 24mo.

The Charleston Table Book,

The New England Primer, improved, 24mo.

Blair’s First, or Mother’s Catechism, 18mo.

Stories about the Elephant, told by a Father to his Son, 16mo.

Hymns in Prose, for Children, by Mrs. Barbauld, 18mo.

——
TOY BOOKS.
[Embellished with Superior Wood Cuts]

No. 4, Toys,—price six cents each,—48 kinds,

No. 3, [Toys,—price] three [cents]—48 kinds,

No. 2, [Toys,—price] two [cents each,]—60 kinds,

No. 1, [Toys,—price] one [cent each,]—60 kinds.

With a great variety of other Books for
Children, of almost every description, constantly for sale.

May, 1839.
Copyright 1999-2017, Pat Pflieger
To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read
Some of the children | Some of their books | Some of their magazines
To “Voices from 19th-Century America
Some works for adults, 1800-1872
To Titles at this site | Subjects at this site | Works by date | Map of the site

Talk to me.