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Old 19th Century School Book A Progressive Grammar of the English Tongue by Professor Swinton Published in 1877 by Harper & Brothers

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Harper & Brothers published this text book in their Harper's Language Series in 1877. It was the revised edition of the work first issued in 1872. The full title is " A Progressive Grammar of the English Tongue: Based on the Results of Modern Philology". The book was written by Professor William Swinton. See below (after the condition report) for a statement by the author taken from his preface, which is interesting, as well as a further bit about this book.

"Etymology Historically Treated"
"Practical Syntax"
"Analysis and Construction"
"English Composition"
By Prof. William Swinton, A.M.
New York :
Harper & Brothers, Publishers
Franklin Square


Trade hardcover; contains a Preface and an Appendix; xi + 207 pages;
approximately 4 3/8" x 6 5/8" (16 mo); 1/4 leather & cloth binding; leather spine with title, etc. lettered in gilt; boards are covered in terra-cotta colored cloth with series title stamped in blind , front and rear


rough: A much worn and used specimen with the following imperfections noted:

BOARDS : The most egregious flaw is the extensive damp stain that displays at the upper fore-edge of both front and rear boards this obvious water damage is quite old and only has left its mark - there is no mold. Board corner tips are bumped and frayed, with underlying boards exposed; there is scattered small spotting and smudging

SPINE : The second obvious fault is the mouse nibbling along the joints - most noticeable at the front; the spine extremities are much abraded and there is general rub and abrasion to the leather surface; title remains fairly bright

HINGES / BINDING : Solid with no loose or detached leaves

PAGE EDGES : Toned but clean

END PAPERS : The original owner wrote his name in a rather ornate manner, first in pencil on the front fly-leaf and then in ink, with date on the first blank preliminary leaf (Seward A. Casler, Dec. 7th, 1877)

INTERIOR : There are scattered various small spots and smudges, pages creases and small leaf edge nicks and tears ... on page 196 young Casler further inked his name at the top of the page (as well as something further which is illegible (likely a further ownership mark) Essentially the interior is basically clean and presentable

Seward Casler (1864 - 1926) was a citizen of Fort Plain, New York.

DUST-JACKET : None issued

Professor Swinton states the following in his Preface:

"While it is the most advanced book of that series, it at the same time furnishes by itself a complete grammatical course for ungraded and for private schools.

"Learning our mother tongue ought to be the most interesting of school studies; and yet, for nearly a century, countless numbers of technical grammars, all modeled after Lindley Murray, have been, by turns, the object of aversion to successive generations of school children. This is not to be wondered at. The traditional rules of syntax, and the time-honored nomenclature of etymology, have come down to us a heritage from the elder grammarians, who, writing before philology became a science, put forth all their strength in a too successful endeavor to subject our simple and peculiar English speech to the vassalage of Latin forms.

"The introduction, some thirty years ago, of the method of Sentential Analysis, devised by the German philologist Becker, and adapted to American school use in the meritorious works of Professor Greene and others, marks the only considerable innovation, in this country, on the Murray system. The new doctrine excited great interest, and soon ran into a wide currency. When we consider, however, that Analysis is the syntax of English to no greater a degree than it is the syntax of any other speech; that it is, in point of fact, general or universal syntax, it is not strange that it failed to realize the brilliant results claimed for it by its early champions, and that of late it is falling out of favor with judicious teachers, who find that Analysis, while a curious and interesting study, and not without its value as a means of mental discipline, fails to accomplish the professed design of English grammar, which design now is, and always has been, to teach 'the art of speaking and writing the English language with propriety.'

"In the mean time, in the results of modern linguistic study and research, materials have been rapidly accumulating, from which methods of treatment ought to be developed very different from the complications of Anglo-Latin syntax on the one hand, and from the abstractions of Analysis on the other. If the present work shall be found to possess any merit, that merit will be due to the fact that modern philology has made English grammar possible by showing us what the English speech really is.

"In this text-book, of the four mediaeval " branches" of grammar, two have been lopped off—to wit, Orthography and Prosody. These do not properly belong to English grammar, and, indeed, they came into the grammatical horn-books at a period when the awful mysteries of "grammairie" were ranked with the black arts. This exclusion leaves for treatment the two proper departments of grammar—Etymology and Syntax; to which have been added Analysis and Construction, and English Composition."

That seems all rather noble and good, Let's applaud the intention of the author. However I found a review, contemporary with the book, that was published in "The National Quarterly", No. LXIII for 1875, that literally shreds Prof. Swinton's book to pieces ... a grand slam in the manner which can only be called illuminatingly entertaining. The following is a brief excerpt from the panning review:

"Of this grammar we may add that it is any thing but progressive, for the different departments are so jumbled together that the author, in the earlier lessons of the work, is obliged continually to refer to subsequent passages to render his instruction intelligible.

"The first volume of this wonderful series we should presume to be intended rather for the nursery than the school-room, as its principal function appears to be to teach children to talk, or, at least, to call things by their names. It certainly seems more like nursery play than school instruction when the teacher commences by "holding up" different articles, and inquiring, "What is this?" "a book;" "this!" "a pencil;" "this?" "an orange;" "this?" "a bell" (p. 1); and, at a later stage, proceeds to say, "write a sentence about wolves," "wolves howl" (p. 3). The professor, however, cannot altogether claim the merit of inventing the system of play-teaching. We have seen something very like it in Mrs. Barbauld's lessons, which were composed for the nursery training of our grandparents.

"These play-volumes—for the second, like the first, is little more—are not, however, likely to do much harm, and, if they amuse children, may, perhaps, in that way, effect some good. It is when we come to the volumes which profess really to teach, and which are evidently intended for children old enough to learn, that we perceive the really mischievous tendency of the series: for instance, its definition*—so-called— which have the distinguishing quality of imparting no idea whatever.

"It will be seen that Professor Swinton has not been more fortunate in his philological efforts than in the walks of geography and history. It is to be regretted that he has chosen this particular department for his latest demonstrations, for, of all erroneous impressions acquired in youth, those connected with grammar are the most difficult to eradicate; and a writer who undertakes to issue books of so-called instruction in this branch of study, without having himself obtained a thorough mastery of the subject, may effect an incalculable amount of mischief. How far this language-series may be suited for the average California, we will not presume to say. But we must, in the interest of our own youth, protest against the introduction of works, whose sole recommendation is a naming title-page, into our schools, whose object is, or should be, to impart not Californian nor even American dialects, but the pure English which we have derived from our ancestors, and which it should be our especial object to preserve unadulterated."

All I can say is WOW!

However, it might be an interesting exercise for an adventurous soul to go through Professor Swinton's text trying to find al the various things that the reviewer found wrong. There seem to be many.
Josiah Booknoodle
Amy B.

Old 19th Century School Book A Progressive Grammar of the English Tongue by Professor Swinton Published in 1877 by Harper & Brothers


  • Vintage item from the 1800s
  • Materials: boards, bloth, gilding, paper, ink, thread, glue, leather
  • Ships from New York, United States to select countries.
  • Feedback: 247 reviews
  • Favorited by: 5 people

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