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American Textbooks: Colonial Days to 1960: Other basic subjects

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If you have a specific book in mind, search the library catalog by Author or Title.

Or, search one of these terms as a subject in Advanced Search:

  • hornbooks
  • spellers
  • primers
  • elocution
  • recitations
  • penmanship
  • copybooks

Hornbooks and Battledores

Hornbooks and battledores were produced in England and America to help children learn the alphabet.

A hornbook is a wooden paddle with the alphabet and a short passage. "The Lord's Prayer" (a Christian prayer) was often used.

A battledore is an inexpensive pamphlet with the alphabet and other simple text, such as lists of one-syllable words or an easy reading passage.


Hornbook reproduction   Battledore from 1830s

Left: a hornbook. Right: a battledore.

Background: "Hornbook." The Oxford Companion to the Book. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Spellers by Noah Webster, 1758-1843

Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language was the forerunner of the Merriam-Webster dictionaries still published today. He also wrote:

Background:  George, D'Ann Pletcher. "Noah Webster." The American Renaissance in New England: Fourth Series. Ed. Wesley T. Mott. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 243.


Before typewriters and keyboards, penmanship was an important subject for younger students. Several representative titles:

Background:  RODGERS SIEGEL, JANE. "Handwriting, Teaching of." Encyclopedia of Education. Ed. James W. Guthrie. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2002. 987-990.

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