A hornbook is a book that serves as primer for study. The hornbook originated in England in 1450 (Huey, Edmund Burke). The term has been applied to a few different study materials in different fields. In children's education, in the years before modern education materials were used, it referred to a leaf or page containing the alphabet, religious materials, etc., covered with a sheet of transparent horn and fixed in a frame with a handle. [http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hornbook Definition of hornbook] from [http://www.dictionary.com dictionary.com] ] In United States Law, a hornbook is a text that gives an overview of a particular area of law.

Use in Early Childhood Education

In early childhood education, a hornbook was a primer for children consisting of a sheet containing the letters of the alphabet, mounted on wood, bone, or leather and protected by a thin sheet of transparent horn or mica. Sometimes the sheet was simply pasted against the slice of horn. The wooden frame often had a handle, and it was usually hung at the child's girdle. The sheet, which in ancient times was of vellum and later of paper, contained first a large cross, from which the horn-book was called the Christ Cross Row, or criss-cross-row. The alphabet in large and small letters followed. The vowels then formed a line, and their combinations with the consonants were given in a tabular form. The usual Trinitarian formula - "in the name of the Father and of the Sonne and of the Holy Ghost, Amen" - followed, then the Lord's Prayer, the whole concluding with the Roman numerals. The hornbook is mentioned in William Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost", act 5, scene 1, where the ba, the a, e, i, o, u, and the horn, are alluded to by Moth:

:ARMADO. [To HOLOFERNES] Monsieur, are you not lett'red?:MOTH. Yes, he teaches boys the hornbook. What is a, b, spelt backward with the horn on his head?:HOLOFERNES. Ba, pueritia, with a horn added.:MOTH. Ba, most silly sheep with a horn. You hear his learning.:HOLOFERNES. Quis, quis, thou consonant?:MOTH. The third of the five vowels, if You repeat them; or the fifth, if I.:HOLOFERNES. I will repeat them: a, e, I-:MOTH. The sheep; the other two concludes it: o, U.

It is also described by Ben Jonson in his play "Volpone", act 4, scene 2:

:CORVINO: ... And yet I hope that I may say, these eyes
Have seen her glued unto that piece of cedar,
That fine well-timber'd gallant; and that here
The letters may be read, through the horn,
That make the story perfect.l


Huey, E. B. (1908). 1911

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • hornbook — noun abstract on the law, analysis, analyzation, annotated text, capitulation, capsule, commentary, compendium, condensation, desk book, digest of the law, discourse on the law, dissection, dissertation on the law, encyclopedia, excursus,… …   Law dictionary

  • Hornbook — Horn book , n. 1. The first book for children, or that from which in former times they learned their letters and rudiments; so called because a sheet of horn covered the small, thin board of oak, or the slip of paper, on which the alphabet,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • hornbook — [hôrn′book΄] n. 1. a sheet of parchment with the alphabet, a table of numbers, etc. on it, mounted on a small board with a handle and protected by a thin, transparent plate of horn: it was formerly used as a child s primer 2. an elementary… …   English World dictionary

  • hornbook — noun a) A single page containing the alphabet, covered with a sheet of transparent horn, formerly used for teaching children to read.<ref name= ADPM def >The [ …   Wiktionary

  • hornbook — /hawrn book /, n. 1. a leaf or page containing the alphabet, religious materials, etc., covered with a sheet of transparent horn and fixed in a frame with a handle, formerly used in teaching children to read. 2. a primer or book of rudiments.… …   Universalium

  • hornbook — A primer; a book explaining the basics, fundamentals or rudiments of any science or branch of knowledge. The phrase hornbook law is a colloquial designation of the rudiments or general principles of law. Popular reference to a series of textbooks …   Black's law dictionary

  • hornbook — noun Date: circa 1595 1. a child s primer consisting of a sheet of parchment or paper protected by a sheet of transparent horn 2. a rudimentary treatise …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • hornbook — Synonyms and related words: abecedarium, abecedary, alphabet, alphabet book, and arithmetic, basics, battledore, casebook, elementary education, elements, exercise book, first principles, first steps, gradus, grammar, induction, initiation,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • HORNBOOK —    was a sheet of vellum or paper used in early times for teaching the rudiments of education, on which were inscribed the alphabet in black or Roman letters, some monosyllables, the Lord s Prayer, and the Roman numerals; this sheet was covered… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • hornbook — n. page containing the alphabet and protected with a translucent piece of horn (formerly used to teach children to read); beginner s textbook, primer (for learning to read) …   English contemporary dictionary

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