19th-Century Domestic Advice Manuals

Advice manuals – the self-help books of the 19th century – provide a rich source of information about domestic and social life in the era.

The Caroline Simpson Library holds many fascinating examples of 19th-century domestic advice manuals. Most of these were published in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. A number of the titles discussed are now rare; and in some cases are the only known copy in a public collection. These publications cover subjects such as household management, domestic service, decorating and etiquette, and offer great insight into social and material histories of the home.

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Chesterfield illustration detail

Guides for etiquette

Some of the smallest volumes in the collection are etiquette manuals

Frontispiece Frugal housewife Mrs Child

Guides for masters and mistresses

Advice manuals in this category may on the surface appear paradoxical. The works provide ready reference on the varied duties of male and female domestic service roles

 The servant's book of reference; or, butler's, housemaid's and footman's assistant / by J.R. Blonsell , circa 1840

Guides for servants

Guides for servants were written by authors from varied social classes, including ex-servants

Drawing room Orrinsmith room retail

Guides for home furnishing

Advice on home decorating had traditionally been written by men for men