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McGuffey Differences

The Facts from 1911

"The First and Second McGuffey Readers were first published in 1836. In 1837 the Third and Fourth McGuffey Readers were printed. For reasons elsewhere explained these books were "improved and enlarged" in 1838. In 1841 a higher reader was added to the series which was then named McGuffey's Rhetorical Guide. In the years 1843 and 1844 the four books then constituting the series were thoroughly remodeled and on the title pages were placed the words "Newly Revised" and the Rhetorical Guide was annexed as the McGuffey Fifth Reader. Ten years later the entire series was made over and issued in six books. These were then called the New McGuffey Readers. From 1853 until 1878 the books remained substantially unchanged; but in the latter year they were renewed largely in substance and improved in form. < u>These readers as copyrighted in 1879 were extensively used for more than a quarter of a century. "

"As at first published, the lower books of the McGuffey Readers had no trace of the modern methods now used in teaching the mastery of words—even the alphabet was not given in orderly form; but the alphabetic method of teaching the art of reading was then the only one used. The pupil at first spelled each word by naming the letters and then pronounced each syllable and then the word.

The following stanza is copied from page 61 of the edition of 1844 to illustrate the method of presenting words:

I like to see a lit-tle dog,
And pat him on the head;
So pret-ti-ly he wags his tail
When-ev-er he is fed.

The First McGuffey Reader was mostly in words of one syllable. In this book we find the story of the lame dog that, when cured, brought another lame dog to be doctored: of the kind boy who freed his caged bird; of the cruel boy who drowned the cat and pulled wings and legs from flies; of Peter Pindar the story teller, and the "snow dog" of Mount St. Bernard; of Mr. Post who adopted and reared Mary; of the boy who told a lie and repented after he was found out; of the chimney sweep who was tempted to steal a gold watch but put it back and was thereafter educated by its owner; of the whisky boy; and of the mischievous boy who played ghost and made another boy insane. Nearly every lesson has a moral clearly stated in formal didactic words at its close."

Another, most disturbing issue we had with the earlier McGuffey's was the tone and manner in which God was conveyed to the children. In a sense that the Lord was an awful terror or dictator, who would smash you like a bug if you were disobedient. The illustrations, spelling errors, added teacher helps, and many other improvements are among the reasons why we will only carry the 1879 or later Editions. Yes, there are many McGuffey editions available, some companies carry every edition that has been reprinted. The reasons could be for sales and to increase their profits, it could also be to satisify their customers who want "first editions", or simply just to offer everything under the sun.

*The above research is an excerpt from "A History of the McGuffey Readers" written by Henry H. Vail, copyright 1911. This book is obviously not written from any "sales" pitch perspective. You may print and/or read the book free. It is 25pages and contains three portraits. A History of the McGuffey Readers. We hope it will help explain why we only carry the 1879 Editions, as well as help clear up the confusion and myths surrounding them.

Example of the First Reader from 1838

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