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Nancy W. Burton copybook


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Nancy W. Burton may have been Ann W. Burton, the daughter of Joshua Burton and Hannah Wolfe of Sussex County, Delaware. If so, Burton would have been about thirteen-years-old when she started keeping this copybook. Ann W. Burton died in Sussex County, Delaware, on September 7, 1843, at the age of 41.

Information derived from the collection.

This copybook of mathematical exercises was created by Ann “Nancy” W. Burton, likely a resident of Sussex County, Delaware, between 1815 and 1820. The volume contains rules, examples, tables, and applications of mathematical principles.

On the first page of the volume is a multiplication table, which Burton was instructed to learn by heart. She dated her first set of mathematical exercises February 20, 1815. In the book, Burton practiced addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with integers as well as compound numbers. She practiced some basic algebra using the rule of three, in which she solved for the variable using equal proportions. Burton frequently calculated the relative value of Delaware currency, “federal money,” and foreign coinage. She worked in Troy, Avoirdupois, and apothecary systems of weights, and used numerous units of measure, including cloth measures, land measurements, and liquid and dry measures. She often used word problems to practice the principles she learned. Her last set of exercises was dated April 17, 1819.

In addition to her mathematical exercises, Burton copied her name and initials throughout the book. Although she typically identified herself as “Nancy W. Burton” or “N.W.B.” at the start of the book, by 1819 she stopped using the nickname “Nancy” and began identifying herself as “Ann W. Burton” or “A.W.B.” Burton included small drawings and scribbles throughout her book. On two pages in the middle of the volume, she copied out an excerpt of the “Sailors’ Hymn,” which she dated March 13, 1819. She also copied excerpts of poems by Mary Robinson and Oliver Goldsmith.

At the end of the volume, there is a record of the deaths of three members of the Paynter family. Burton described the passing of seventeen-year-old Sarah Paynter in August 1820, noting that her “mother [Elizabeth Paynter] and elder sister [Mary Paynter Wilson] were worn down by grief” and “soon fell a prey to the prevailing fever of the Southern climate” in November of the same year.

There are several loose items in this volume, including three geometrical patterns, a small ink drawing of a flower, and a newspaper clipping about drinking cold water mounted on a piece of blue paper. There are also two pieces of paper with charts listing names, dates, and days of the week. Two charts are from February and April 1817 and a third is undated. It is possible that these were school attendance records. Although Nancy W. Burton’s name is not included, the charts list several other members of the Burton family.

This volume consists of 63 leaves of unlined, laid paper bound in brown paper. It contains handwritten text in black ink. There are 6 blank leaves in the volume.

Item 0096: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0097

Gift of Mrs. Rowland G. Paynter, 1960

Processed and encoded by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, January 2017.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2017 January 9
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

Nancy W. Burton copybook, 1815-1820.
Item 0096
Physical Description

1 volume

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