We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Professor Matthew Daniel Eddy

Eddy, Matthew (2016). The Child Writer: Graphic Literacy and the Scottish Educational System, 1700-1820. History of Education 45(6): 695-718.

Author(s) from Durham


The story of Enlightenment literacy is often reconstructed from textbooks and manuals, with the implicit focus being what children were reading. But far less attention has been devoted to how they mastered the scribal techniques that allowed them to manage knowledge on paper. Focusing on Scotland, handwritten manuscripts are used to reveal that children learned to write in a variety of modes, each of which required a set of graphic techniques. These modes and skills constituted a pervasive form of graphic literacy. The article first explains how children learned to write for different reasons in diverse domestic and institutional settings. It then explores how they acquired graphic literacy through the common techniques of copying, commonplacing, composing, bookkeeping, scribbling and drawing. In the end we shall have a more detailed picture of how children used writing as an indispensible mode of learning during the Enlightenment.