Johnson, J. mss., ca. 1740-1759
Scope and Content Note
The Johnson, J. mss. consists of materials devised by Jane (Russell) Johnson primarily
for the instruction of her son, George William Johnson. The materials consist of 438
items and are arranged in 24 groups. Included are alphabet cards, religious and secular
lesson cards, all hand-made. Some contain colored illustrations and are decorated with
multi-colored Dutch paper.
The materials, arranged in 24 groups, consist of 438 pieces. Present are six sets of
alphabet cards, many with vowel sounds, syllables, words and short lines or verses
(which could serve as modern flash cards); three sets of word cards, also with vowel
sounds, syllables and lines; two booklets; three sets of lesson cards in verse and
anecdotal form on religious and secular topics; five card sets, largely secular and
contemporary in nature with some traditional story-verses; and three card sets of
religious and moral instruction, along with a set of word chips.
The largest group of materials is that of set no. 7 which includes the 78 word chips
denoting chiefly food products such as Ale, Almonds, Bacon, ... , Veal, Water,
Wild-fowl, housed in a small paper box decorated with playing card symbols cut from a
References to contemporary personages and secular topics include George Berkeley, bishop
of Cloyne, who advocated the curative powers of tarwater (no. 14 - Doctor Berkeley and
Enoch Martyr cards); John Thomas, Bishop of London (no. 14 - Master Isaac Seabright);
George Wright, member of Parliament (no. 14 - Two tame swans); the French dances,
ridotto (no. 19 - Lord Mountjoy) and rigadoon (no. 19 - Miss Carpenter); anti-French
bias (no. 17 - Hark the drums and no. 21 - Such short gowns); an acrobat (no. 21 - This
Girl to get money); a woman's independence (no. 21 - Pray Madam come this way);
toothache (no. 18 - A Boy and a Girl).
The stories, briefly noted, include those of the faithful dog betrayed (no. 14 - A
farmer came home); A Fable (no. 15 - The Old man and Death: he calls upon Death but when
he appears, asks for help with his load); The Eagle and the Child (no. 15 - As a hungry
eagle: it seizes the child from the cradle); and a nonsense rhyme (no. 18 - If all the
world was [sic] paper).
Sets 22 and 23 contain many identical religious and moral statements, including five of
the Ten Commandments.
Factors for dating the material are derived from a figure on a card which bears a
printed identity (set 1, item 36: Sir John Bernard, alderman and Lord Mayor of London,
1738); one of the booklets (no. 11 - George William Johnson, his Book, Printed and Bound
by his Mamma [Jane Johnson] 1745); and a card (no. 14 - Simon Lord Lovat) which notes
that Lord Lovat was beheaded on April 9, 1747.
The materials are sturdily constructed of two or more pieces of paper pasted together,
some of which bear partial watermarks, with the wording hand-printed on grooved lines in
black and red ink. Bordered or decorated in brown, orange, and green multi-colored paper
of Dutch origin, the cards frequently are illustrated by figures (plain or hand-colored)
of people, birds, animals, and objects cut from printed sources. One of the
illustrations retains its printed source (set 21, item 15: Sold by John Bowles at the
Black Horse in Cornhill). Many of the cards have small string or cord hangers.