Isaac Watts 1740 Songs for Children

 Isaac Watts first published this songbook in 1715 and it became one of the most popular children’s books sold. Also known as Divine and Moral Songs for Children, as well as other similar titles, this book was used as a standard textbook in schools for over one hundred and fifty years. In fact, there were more than one thousand editions published by the mid-nineteenth century.

One of Watts’ best known children’s songs is “Praise for Creation and Providence”. Still sung today, this hymn is now better known as “I sing the mighty power of God”. Other popular poems included are: “The Sluggard” and “Against Idleness and Mischief” (better known as “How doth the little busy bee”!!) These poems, affirming the importance of hard work, were very well-known in the nineteenth century.

Virtue in the children of “polite” society…

Unlike the cheap eighteenth century chapbooks with silly songs and stories commonly sold by peddlers, Watts wanted his songbook to encourage virtue in the children of “polite” society. Using poems and songs, Watts sought to simplify the moral and social issues of the day into lessons on wisdom and common sense that could easily be remembered.

One of Watts’ best known children’s songs is “Praise for Creation and Providence”. Still sung today, this hymn is now better known as “I sing the mighty power of God”. Other popular poems included are: “The Sluggard” and “Against Idleness and Mischief” (better known as “How doth the little busy bee”!!) These poems, affirming the importance of hard work, were very well-known in the nineteenth century.

The book we produce…

My replica is of the seventeenth edition that was printed in London for James Brackstone, at the Globe in Cornhill in MDCCXL, aka 1740.   

Gluing the spine of a songbook:

For a limited time we will be giving away a copy of Carris Kocher's edition of this book, complete with a history, music notations and audio CD of the songs.

The Story behind this Book:“Working on this book was quite an adventure. Early in the 1980s we were gifted a copy of the 1975 Thoburn Press edition of Divine Songs as a book of poetry. Being a musician, I compiled a list of hymn tunes for many of the songs and sent it to them. While they appreciated the list, they were not planning to reprint the book. So, Erik and I made plans to publish an edition with music and words combined in the manner now customary.In the summer of 1982 I attended Frank Garlock’s Music Seminar/Conference in Greenville, South Carolina with a four month old baby in tow! I was most interested in the workshops on music typesetting. Erik and I then bought the recommended clay-coated paper and an Olympia typewriter retooled with the necessary musical “characters” and set to work. It was several years to completion as along the way we were blessed with six more little ones and moved from Florida to Pennsylvania.I remember one particular evening in 1989 as we were getting near the end of this project. A severe winter storm was underway. I noticed ice accumulating on the power lines outside. Icicles began to form. A prayer went up that the Lord would keep our power on so we could continue our work which was nearing the finish line. The ice continued to accumulate.The Lord reminded me of the verse, ‘Pray for the peace of the city wherein you dwell.’ So I called the mayor and offered to pray with her over the phone. ‘Yes, please,’ was her reply. And so it was that all around us there was practically a total loss of electricity, but in our municipality – Upper Darby, the largest in Pennsylvania – there were only two minor outages. The streets were at a practical standstill, but the power stayed on. At the next council meeting the mayor took public notice of our prayer and the Lord’s mercy.”For Virtue, Liberty and Independence,Carris Kocher

This 1761 25th edition of Isaac Watts’ Divine Songs was owned by Elizabeth Ashfold, who has written in the inside front cover. Don’t you just love finding these in your old books?
“Elizabeth Ashford hir Book god give her grace thear in to Lock and not to look but undar Stand that Larning is bettar then hous and Land when hous and land is gon and Spent then Larning is most Exalent__ June ye: 26: 1763.”
In many of my period books it is not uncommon for the owner to write their name followed by His Book or Her Book.  In this example it reads “Elizabeth Ashford hir Book” followed by a well-known 18th century text: 
“God give her grace to look in it, but not just to look in it, but to understand that learning is better than house and land: when house and land are gone and spent, then learning is most excellent.”
This inscription reminds us of the importance that was placed on children’s education in the 18th century.
Reading Elizabeth’s words, as she spelled them, we can see examples of a carry-over from a shift in spelling that had actually taken place a century earlier although traces remained for many years. For instance, the old spelling for “her” was indeed “hir”, as many of the vowels were phonetically spelt. By 1760 the shifting was pretty well complete, but even then, formal prose often reached back to the ages between Shakespeare and Chaucer. In 1760, the older generations still alive would have still understood “In troust of him that turneth as a bal.” 
Handwritten inserts like this are a treasure offering us a glimpse into the past.
Source: British Library 
1 1761 copy of Divine Song by Watts title page owned by Elizabeth Ashfold
2 Elizabeth Ashfolds inscription in her copy of Watts Song Book

Cutting and sewing the songbook:

Another example of an original songbook for children…