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The Shape of Knowledge: Children and the Visual Culture of Literacy and Numeracy

  • Matthew Daniel Eddy (a1)

The argument

In 1787 an anonymous student of the Perth Academy spent countless hours transforming his rough classroom notes into a beautifully inscribed notebook. Though this was an everyday practice for many Enlightenment students, extant notebooks of this nature are extremely rare and we know very little about how middle class children learned to inscribe and visualize knowledge on paper. This essay addresses this lacuna by using recently located student notebooks, drawings, and marginalia alongside textbooks and instructional literature to identify the graphic tools and skills that were taught to Scottish children in early modern classrooms. I show that, in addition to learning the facts of the curriculum, students participated in educational routines that enabled them to learn how to visually package knowledge into accessible figures and patterns of information, thereby making acts of inscription and visualization meaningful tools that benefitted both the self and society.



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