Original Document
Original Document
William H. McGuffy, "To the Friends of Education," The First Eclectic Reader for Young Children, 1838.


A warm friend of common Schools has said 'Among the duties of the guardians of public education, it is one thing to provide the ways and means in support of the cause, another to obtain competent teachers, and last, to furnish them, as you would the mechanic or artist, if you would expect the best result from their labors, with propertools and materials –that is to say, with the best books. Money lavished in the purchase of inferior books is not only lost, but that time, which is the most precious to the young for improvement is gone, and cannot be redeemed.

The friends of education are requested to critically examine the "ECLECTIC SERIES OF SCHOOL BOOKS," advertised on the cover of this book. Their merit will, doubtless, gain for them a wide circulation.

The Eclectic System of Instruction now predominates in Prussia, Germany, and Switzerland. It is in these countries that the subject of education has been deemed of paramount importance. The art of teaching, particularly, has there been most ably and minutely investigated.

The Eclectic System aims at embodying all the valuable principles of previous systems, without adhering slavishly to the dictates of any master, or the views of any party. It rejects the undue predilection for the mere expansion of mind, to the neglect of positive knowledge and practical application."

It is often asked "Why have we so many inferior School Books, and so few which are really meritorious and adapted to the purposes of instruction!"

This question, though often asked, may be easily answered. Want of adaptation to their work, on the part of the authors is undoubtedly the true cause to which may be attributed the ill success of many of those who attempt to prepare books for the school room.

Upon the same principle that a mechanic, or any other person, seldom attains success in more than one art–so, also, it must be admitted. That no one man can expect to succeed in preparing books for every department of the school. A man may possess eminent attainments as a scholar, and be very familiar with the sciences, but still he may not "be apt to teach," nor even successful in preparing one of the most elementary works for our Primary Schools.

Again: A person may be highly successful in the preparation of an Arithmetic, and receive the well merited praise and thanks of a large number of teachers and parents, for his admirable adaptation of principles in the juvenile mind–and yet utterly fail in preparing a Grammar, or a work of Geography; and for the simple reason, that his powers are not adapted to that particular department.

In preparing the ELECTIC SERIES OF SCHOOL BOOKS, the principle of division of labor has been adopted, and the books for the different departments have been assigned to different individuals–to men of apractical character, who are extensively known as successful teachers in the branches they have undertaken, and who know the wants of schools from actual experiment and observationin the school room.

It is believed that the ECLECTIC READERS are not excelled by any other series in the English language. Professor M'Guffey's experience in teaching, and his special attention, in early life, to the department of reading and spelling; his peculiar acquaintance with the wants of the young mind, and his enthusiastic interest in the promotion of common schools render him most admirably qualified for his undertaking.

The ELECTIC SERIES will be extended as fast as due regard to the interest of the books shall admit.

It is the determination of the publishers to have the whole series of books handsomely printed on a fair type and good paper–to have them well bound, and to sell them at low prices.

School Committees and Teachers will be gratuitously supplied with copies of the above books for examination, on application to any of the publishers, viz.

New York, by Leavitt, Lord andCo.: and by Robinson, Pratt and Co.: Philadelphia, by DeSilver, Thomas and Co.: Pittsburg, by J. N. Patterson and Co.: Wheeling, by J. Fisher and Son: Louisville by Morton and Smith: Nashville, by W. A. Eichbaum: Lexington, by A. T. Skillman: Natchez, by Pearce and Becanson: New Orleans, by Hotchkiss and Co.: St. Louis, by George Holton.


This little book is offered to the public, in the hope that it may prove a valuable auxiliary to those engaged in the instruction of children.

Great pains have been taken to select Lessons in which the phraseology is simple and the subjects interesting and natural to children. Having learnt from actual experience, that a child's progress is most rapid when the subjects are agreeable, and he can understand the terms in which they are conveyed.

The Lessons are short, and generally composed of words of one, and two syllables. Great care has been taken to render them as progressive as possible, so that the child may not meet with many expressions which are strange to his ear, and none that are above his comprehension.

The Spelling Lessons are composed of words derived form the Reading Lessons, and it will be found judicious for the Teacher to extend the exercise, by making further selections of the most difficult words. When reading and spelling are thus blended, the advance of the pupil is most rapid.

We deem it important to state, that in the orthography we have followed Dr. Webster, whose name will long be held in grateful remembrance for the acceptable labor he has performed for the present and future generations.

The Engravings are designed to illustrate familiar scenes and objects treated of in the Lessons. These will please the eye, and explain things readily, where language might fail.

Credit: William H. McGuffy, "To the Friends of Education," The First Eclectic Reader for Young Children, Consisting of Progressive Lessons in reading and Spelling mostly in Easy Words of One and Two Syllables Cincinnati: Truman and Smith, 1838. William Holmes McGuffey Museum at Miami University,
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