The hornbook was used by school children for several centuries, starting in the Mid-15th century, in Europe and America. The hornbook consisted of a wooden paddle with lessons tacked on and covered by a piece of transparent horn.

The wooden paddle was approximately 2 3/4" x 5" with an easy to hold handle. A hole was put in the handle so a leather thong could be tied to it and the child could carry it on his/her belt or around his/her neck.

The lessons consisted of different combinations of the following things: the alphabet, vowel and consonant combinations, the Lord's Prayer, a form of a cross, and a praise of the Trinity. These were hand written on a piece of parchment, then tacked to the wooden paddle.

The horn tacked on over the lessons was used to keep the lessons from being soiled by the child. The horn of oxen and sheep were used to make the laminating structure. The horn was left in cold water for several weeks, which separated the usable part from the bone. It was then heated, first in boiling water then by fire, and pressed by plates and machines to make it smooth and transparent.

As time went on, hornbooks were also made of a variety of other materials. They were made from ivory, various metals, leather and cardboard. They ranged from plain, whittled type, to carved type, to tooled, embossed, and engraved type.

Prepared by Tammy L. Austin