19th Century Domestic Advice Manuals

The role of the domestic advice manual was to educate and provide guidance and information. Manuals were prescriptive in nature. They promoted popular notions of taste and culture and maintained those of class, gender, duty and morality. Publishers catered to the growing market of middle-class readers, preoccupied with ideas of ‘betterment’, releasing a myriad of books targeting a wide range of topics and audiences.

The Caroline Simpson Library holds a comprehensive collection of 19th century advice manuals. The majority of these handbooks were published in the UK, with some from the US and Australia. This genre of literature was often lucrative for those producing it, and regardless of the place of publication, many of these titles were readily available in Australia - brought here by immigrants or sold locally.

A number of the titles are now extremely rare; in some cases the library retains the only known copy in a public collection. The genre covers subjects such as household management, domestic service, decorating and etiquette and offers great insight into social and material histories of the home.

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