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Early American Hornbook

Early American Hornbook

Early American Hornbook, ca 1740. Facsimile of oaken hornbook; rag paper text in Roman type. The hornbook was used in England as early as 1450. Not a book at all, it was probably the first type of instructional material utilized by American colonists to teach reading. It consisted of a single sheet of paper on which the lesson progressed from the alphabet in upper and lower case to a shortened syllabarium, the benediction, and the Lord’s Prayer. The thin layer of horn protected the paper from dirt and tears, while the hornbook’s raised tack heads helped to protect the horn itself from scratches if the book was laid face down.

The instructional objective of the hornbook was limited, intended only to initiate children into the first phase of reading instruction -- the recognition of letters and the spelling of words.


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