New England Primer

New England Primer

New England Primer, famous American school book, first published before 1690. Its compiler was Benjamin Harris, an English printer who emigrated to Boston. This was the book from which most of the children of colonial America learned to read. The letters of the alphabet were illustrated by rhymed couplets (e.g., “The idle Fool/Is whipt at School”) and woodcuts; the lessons frequently contained moral texts based on the Old Testament. The book was reprinted many times, with various changes in text and even in title. Although it has been estimated that as many as 2 million were sold in the 18th cent., copies of the book are now rare.


See P. L. Ford, ed., The New England Primer (1897, repr. 1962).

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References in classic literature ?
Pearl, therefore -- so large were the attainments of her three years' lifetime -- could have borne a fair examination in the New England Primer, or the first column of the Westminster Catechisms, although unacquainted with the outward form of either of those celebrated works.
A school for little children had been often in her thoughts; and, at one time, she had begun a review of her early studies in the New England Primer, with a view to prepare herself for the office of instructress.
The book which he recalls from his London poorhouse schooling, which must have taken place some time around the late 1650s, presumably had much in common with later extant pedagogical publications by Benjamin Harris: The Protestant Tutor, first printed in London in 1679, and The New England Primer, which was printed in Boston in numerous editions from the 1680s onward.
Another text was The New England Primer that contained 88 pages and measured about 3% inches by 4% inches.
Chapters focus in turn on Puritan New England, the New England Primer, the nineteenth-century Bible "wars," and the American Renaissance.
The New England Primer, a basic educational text for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, gave way to William Holmes McGuffey's Eclectic Readers of the nineteenth century.
Perhaps the best-known and most influential seventeenth-century book containing the alphabet was the New England Primer (14), first published in 1690, though the copy described here is a reprint of the 1777 edition.
The editors included some genuine classics, to be sure, some excerpted and some in full, like The New England Primer, A Child's Garden of Verses, Peter Pan, Ramona and her Father, chapbook versions of Bunyaffs Pilgrim's Progress and Defoe's Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, and the poetry of Charles Causley and Robert Graves, to name just a few.
The Story of A: The Alphabetization of America from The New England Primer to The Scarlet Letter.
Crain, Patricia, The Story of A: The Alphabetization of America from The New England Primer to The Scarlet Letter.
A poem from an old New England primer, which Robert Frost was fond of quoting, explains it this way:

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