Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New England Primer – 1690

The Pilgrim's and Puritans had a profound belief that all must seek the Word of God in the Bible. Hence, they firmly believed in educating their children to read. For this purpose hornbooks were created which consisted of the alphabet accompanied with a text from the Bible. The alphabet and Biblical text were mounted on a board which was covered with a thin sheet of transparent animal horn. Eventually, children utilized the New England Primer which was printed in Boston in 1690.

By 1691, the Primer was entering it's second edition and was advertised by Benjamin Harris of Boston. The oldest extant copy of the New England Primer is dated 1737. 

The Primer was known as the “Little Bible of New England” and is considered to be the most influential school book in the history of American education. The Primer was three by five inches and contained an eighty-eight page devotional. The New England Primer was the school book of America during the end of the 1600's and early 1700's. There were over three million copies of the Primer which were printed containing the alphabet and some scripture verses. Consequently, the actual manner in which the alphabet was taught utilizing the Bible clearly indicates the Christian nature of this most important book in the history of America.

A - In Adam's Fall
      We sinned all.

B - Heaven to find,
      The Bible Mind.

C - Christ crucify'd
      For sinners dy'd.

D - The Deluge drown'd
      The Earth around.

E - Elijah hid
      By Ravens fed.

F - The judgment made
      Felix afraid.

G - As runs the Glass,
      Our Life doth pass.

H - My Book and Heart
      Must never part.

J - Job feels the Rod,
     Yet blesses GOD.

K - Proud Korah's troop
     Was swallowed up.

L - Lor fled to Zoar,
     Saw Fiery Shower
     On Sodom pour.

M - Moses was he
      Who Israel's Host
       Led thro' the Sea.

N - Noah did view
      The old world & new.

O - Young Obadias,
      David, Josias
      All were pious.

P - Peter deny'd
     His Lord and cry'd.

Q - Queen Esther sues
      And saves the Jews.

R - Young pious Ruth,
      Left all for Truth.

S - Young Sam'l dear
     The Lord did fear.

T - Young Timothy
      Learnt sin to fly.

V - Vasthi for Pride,
      Was set aside.

W - Whales in the Sea
       GOD's Voice obey.

X - Xerxes did die,
      And so must I.

Y - While youth so chear
      Death may be near.

Z - Zaccheus he
     Did climb the Tree
     Our Lord to see.

This cherished prayer was included in the New England Primer:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take."

The prayer was originally recorded in the Enchiridion Leonis which is dated 1160 A.D.

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