Monday, October 12, 2009


Hornbooks originated in England in the mid 1400's. In children's education, they were used as primers for study. Printed paper or parchment was attached to a paddle-shaped piece of wood. A thin sheet of horn, made by soaking animal horn in cold water to remove it from the bone, and then boiling to soften, was attached to the board using tacks, or a thin strip of metal that was tacked around the edge. The horn served to protect the paper from grubby fingers and wear. Usually a hornbook was printed with the letters of the alphabet, the vowels in a line, and the vowel combinations with the consonants in a tabular form. The Trinitarian formula - "in the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" and the Lord's Prayer were commonly found following the letters. Occasionally, the arabic numerals appeared as well.

On English hornbooks, a cross appeared before the first row of letters, this was called 'Christ's Cross' and came to be known as the 'criss-cross.' A pupil was expected to cross himself before beginning the lesson. American hornbooks generally lacked the cross, as the Puritans objected to the use of the symbol of the cross.

Often, a hornbook had a hole in the handle for a cord so that the student could wear the book around their neck or attached to a belt. Hornbooks were sturdy, and there is evidence that they were used as bats when playing.

Our newest frame is a hornbook frame - it is finished in a primitive, worn-paint finish. This example has a golden yellow undercoat, but could be done in any color undercoat to complement your work. We have a few ideas that we'll be working up soon for a sampler for this frame as well, and we hope to have one finished and available soon.

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