Item of the Day: Webster’s History of Animals (1812)

Full Title:

History of Animals; Designed for the Instruction and Amusement of Persons of Both Sexes by Noah Webster, Jun. Esq. Printed in New-Haven by Walter & Steele, 1812.

Excerpt from “MAN”

16. Of the human race. Among the countless species of animals which inhabit the globe; Man holds the first rank. He is not indeed the largest or strongest animal; but he is of the most beautiful form, and indued with a superior degree of intellectual power, which enables him to subdue other animals, and make them subservient to his necessities, his convenience, or his luxury. But what especially distinguishes man from other animals, is his rational soul, which is capable of continual improvement and high intellectual enjoyment in this life, and is destined to survive the body, and enjoy immortality.

17. Infancy of man. Notwithstanding the dignity of man compared with other animals, he is, at his birth, the most helpless and dependent. When first born, the infant can only move its feeble limbs, and manifest its wants by the cries of distress. Unable to move its body, it depends on its nurse for support and protection; and its utmost efforts towards procuring food consist in swallowing the milk which is poured into its mouth, or in feebly drawing it with its lips from the breast.

18. Progress of infancy. For several month after its birth, the infant continues most of the time in sleep. When awake, its eyes are fixed, or moved without design; and they appear glossy or destitute of lustre. Light indeed atracts the eye of an infant, in a short time after its birth; but rarely does it exhibit a smile, or shed a tear, until after forty days. Its hands are moved, but without design, or direction to a particular object. Its bones are soft, and its joints feeble. In this manner the infant continues dependent on the fostering care of its mother and nurse, till the appearance of teeth indicates the time when it may quit the breast, and be fed with more substantial food.

19. Childhood. The teeth usually begin to appear between the ages of four and eight months. Strong, healthful children begin to walk at the age of nine or ten months; but more generally, children cannot walk till twelve or fourteen months old. From the time of weaning, till three years old, the child is exposed to many dangers from accidents, and especially from the diseases incident to dentition, or teething. Until this period, and for several years after, the child’s life is exposed to hazard from certain diseases which are epidemic, at irregular periods, in all countries; by which means one third of the children perish before they are three years old.

20. Propensity of children to action. No sooner is the child able to walk, than he manifests an inclination to be continually in motion. He walks from place to place to find objects of amusement; but soon dissatisfied with one toy, he throws it away, and seeks another. As he advances in strength, he begins to run and to play with more vigor, and to seek for companions as lively, as playful and noisy as himself. This propensity to action, however troublesome to his parents, is of immense consequence to the child; it is intended, in the wise economy of providence, to prompt the feeble child to exert his muscles and limbs, for the purpose of giving them strength and firmness; invigorating the body, and fitting it to sustain the necessary toils and labor of his future life.

21. Puberty. From infancy, the growth of the body is tolerably regular and uniform, till the age of thirteen or fourteen years. At this time, the child passes rapidly to a state of manhood; and often the size of his body is enlarged, in disproportion to its strength; and young persons of both sexes are peculiarly liable to disease, especially to affections of the lungs. By the age of twenty years, but sometimes a little earlier or later, the body has usually acquired its full size, proportion, strength and beauty. Females however generally arrive to their full size at an earlier age than males.

22. Progress of man to old age. After the body has arrived to its full size and strength, it continues many years without any great change, except that it sometimes gains an inconvenient load of fat. The state of full strength continues often to the age of forty or forty-five years; but, before this period, the body usually begins to lose in activity. At the age of fifty, or somewhat earlier, man begins to be sensible of a decay, not only of activity, but of strength; and about this period, his eye-sight begins to fail. The decay is gradual—the bones become hard; the cartilages (or gristle) become more rigid, rendering the motion of the joints more difficult; and other parts of the body undergo a similar alteration. The flesh falls away, and leaves the skin to contract into wrinkles; the hair often becomes white; all the functions of the body become more slow and languid; until the blood ceases to circulate, and man sinks into his native dust.


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Filed under 1810's, Education, Medicine, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

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