I have finished making my first replica of this original quarter bound version of the 1740 book, “Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language, for the Use of Children by Isaac Watts”. The photo on the left is the original from the 18th century. The photo on the right is my replica.
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. I replicate the seventeenth edition that was printed in London for James Brackstone, at the Globe in Cornhill, MDCCXL
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.