History of American Schoolbooks

By Charles Carpenter | Go to book overview

II
The New England Primer

ONE OF THE primitive examples of school texts used in our land was the hornbook, something that goes quite a distance into the past of our forebears, those of England and elsewhere. The hornbook, not at all familiar today to most people, was a paddle-shaped affair of wood with a piece of paper attached, covered with a transparent sheet of "horn," or in rare cases made of wood or metal with the lettering cut or pressed into the surface. The hornbook usually carried the alphabet, numerals, and sometimes religious figures or wording. The larger ones often contained the Lord's Prayer or brief religious admonitions. Many, especially those with the lettering carved into the wood or pressed into the metal, had only the alphabet or the alphabet and the ten digits. The handle of the hornbook generally had a hole through which a cord could be passed, so that it could be attached to a girdle or otherwise to the person. John Carter states that hornbooks are "rarer than First Folio Shakespeares."1 and two chances to one he is right.

Andrew W. Tuer stated: "There can be no doubt that the hornbook has been extensively used in America."2 This state-

____________________
1
Carter, Taste and Technique in Book Collecting ( Cambridge University Press, 1949), p. 1.
2
Tuer, History of the Hornbook ( London: Leadenhall Press, 1897), I, 162. This is a large, well-illustrated book, which was "By command dedicated to the Queen and Empress [ Victoria]." A second edition, "a popular version" of small size, was issued in 1899.

-21-

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History of American Schoolbooks
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Preface 7
  • Contents 11
  • I - The Early American Schools 15
  • II - The New England Primer 21
  • III - Nineteenth-Century Primers 35
  • IV - Special Primers 43
  • V - Beginning of Readers 57
  • VI - Following the Initial Readers 67
  • VII - The Mcguffey and Contemporary Readers 79
  • VIII - Grammars 93
  • IX - Rhetorics and Foreign Language Books 110
  • X - Arithmetics 122
  • XI - Spelling Books 148
  • XII - Literature Texts 160
  • Xlll - Elocution Manuals 168
  • XIV - Handwriting and Copybooks 177
  • XV - School Histories 196
  • XVI - General Science Texts 212
  • XVII - Physiologies And Mental Science Texts 233
  • XVIII - Geographies 245
  • XIX - Progress of Schoolbook Publishing 271
  • Bibliography 279
  • Index 301
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