Saturday, June 2

Book of Penmanship by Frances A. Henshaw

Indiana. Frances A. Henshaw. 1823
(Click to enlarge or download)

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century American children were taught geography almost entirely through prose, reading and recitation of geodetic texts were thought to be the best aids to spatial memory.

Description of Kentucky
(Click to enlarge or download)

A remarkable pedagogical innovation involving the teaching of this discipline started in 1814 when American educator and author of several geography textbooks, Emma Willard, founded Middlebury Female Academy in western Vermont. Her goal was to provide female students with an education equal to that offered to their brothers. So began a revolutionary commitment to the education of women.

Emma Willard

She based geographical instruction and discovery-learning on the construction of personalized, localized, graphical maps. She believed her students would learn better through personal exercises in geospatial and textual graphesis as well as the knowledge production through the creation of images and texts-as-image. So that learning geography also meant learning artistry, as drawing maps was a common assignment. (Based in "Inventing the map" by Bethany Nowviskie. Poetess Archive Journal 2.1, 20 December, 2010)

Vermont (Click to enlarge or

Frances Alsop Henshaw, a gifted 14-year-old student at Middlebury Female Academy produced an amazing cartographic and textual artifact, Book of Penmanship, 29 April 1828. It included a series of gorgeous pen-and-ink hand drawn maps delicately colored of 19 U.S. States accompanying original geographic diagrams for each of the hand drawn maps.

Description of Connecticut
(Click to enlarge or download)

These hand drawn maps are stunning in their artistry, but also fascinating in their content. Descriptive and positional texts are displayed in unique patterns, the pattern is different for each of the 19 states. She copied the maps from an atlas available at school or at home.
Henshaw’s Book of Penmanship goes far beyond penmanship, including not only maps of the 19 states accompanying geographical diagrams but also astronomical maps, charts of Copernican and Ptolemaic celestial systems, as well as maps of other cartographic features such as equator, meridian, polar circles, latitude and longitude. Her diagrams serve to illustrate or amplify the geographical data conveyed through her maps.

Connecticut (Click to enlarge or download)

Could our children draw something like this in this age of the Internet, I wonder?

I will send free your State map high resolution willingly, just email me.