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Funding for this project generously provided by Overdeck Family Foundation


around 1700

North American Hornbook

Only known hornbook likely constructed and used in North America

This hornbook from the collection of Nerida Ellerton and Ken Clements is the only known example of a hornbook likely constructed and used in North America in the period 1607–1850. It was originally used for the education of indigenous children in Michigan.

North American Hornbook

A hornbook is a book that serves as a primer for study. The hornbook originated in England as long ago as 1450, or earlier. In children's education, in the years before modern educational materials were used, it referred to a leaf or page displaying the alphabet, religious materials, etc., covered with a transparent sheet of horn (or mica) and attached to a frame with a handle. This hornbook is the only known example likely constructed and used in North America in the period 1607–1850. It is probably more than three hundred years old and was originally used for the education of indigenous children in Michigan.

Artifact dimensions

5 in. × 7 in. (rectangular face outer dimensions)

Artifact origin

Michigan, United States

Current artifact location

United States

Timeline

MathematicsEducation timeline babylonian-scribe-school-multiplication-tablet Rhind Papyrus Slate with Numeral Frame Derby Museum Hornbook North American Hornbook Wood Hornbook with Abacus Maria Agnesi's Analytical Institutions Midshipman's Cyphering Book Samuel Fay's Cyphering Book Lincoln's Cyphering Book Orville Wright's Arithmetic Textbook New York State Regents Exams in Mathematics

Interactive Content

coming soon

Computational Explanation

coming soon

Additional Reading

  • Clements, M. and Ellerton, N. Thomas Jefferson and His Decimals 1775–1810: Neglected Years in the History of U.S. School Mathematics. New York: Springer, 2015.
  • Cogley, R. John Eliot's Mission to the Indians before King Philip's War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.
  • Cremin, L. American Education: The Colonial Experience 1607–1783. New York: Harper & Row, 1970.
  • Earle, A. Child-Life in Colonial Days. New York: Macmillan, 1899.
  • Ellerton, N. and Clements, M. Rewriting the History of School Mathematics in North America 1607–1861. New York: Springer, 2012.
  • Ellerton, N. and Clements, M. A. "The Most Influential Mathematics Textbooks Used in North America Between 1607 and 1850." Unpublished M.S., September 30, pp. 1 and 46, 2019.
  • Ellerton, N. and Clements, M. A. "Beginning Mathematics with a Hornbook in North America—Between 1607 and 1800." Unpublished manuscript, October 9, 2019.
  • Kraushaar, O. Private Schools from the Puritans to the Present. Bloomington, IA: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, 1976.
  • Littlefield, G. Early Schools and School-Books of New England. Boston, MA: The Club of Odd Volumes, 1904.
  • Miter. "Our London Letter." The American Stationer, Vol. 40, pp. 367–368 and 379, September 8, 1896.
  • Plimpton, G. The Hornbook and Its Use in America. Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 1916.
  • Tuer, A. History of the Horn-Book. London: Leadenhall Press, 1986.