An Act to provide for public Elementary Education in England…

~ An Act to provide for public Elementary Education in England Wales. 9 August 1870. [London: George Edward Eyre and William Spottiswoode, 1870].

pp. 45, [1]. Wood engraved headpiece. Contained, as chapter 75, in a complete yearly volume of 112 separately issued and paginated British parliamentary acts for 1870: ‘The Public General Acts passed in the thirty-third and thirty-fourth years of the Reign of Queen Victoria’. Small folio (270 × 172 mm). Contemporary calf, spine numbered Vol. 155, ‘City and Borough of Canterbury and County of the same’ in gilt to upper cover.

First edition of the first British act of legislation to deal specifically with the provision of education in England and Wales. It instituted schooling for children between the ages of five and twelve, established local education authorities with defined powers and authorized public money to improve existing schools. Most importantly, it demonstrated a commitment to compulsory provision on a national scale. Introduced by Liberal politician William Forster (and sometimes referred to as ‘Forster’s Act’) it also marks an important milestone in the history of literacy and literature, and has been seen as a primary stimulant of the growth in reading and of popular fiction for a mass market.

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