The New England Primer

The New England Primer title page, black text on cream colored paper

Title page of The New-England Primer

Boston, 1843

The New England Primer

Boston, S. Kneeland & T. Green, 1843 (circa 1690)

3.75" x 4.75"

Kerlan Collection, Children's Literature Research Collections

University of Minnesota Libraries

This unremarkable-looking little volume is the oldest known copy of the most influential American children's book of the 18th and early 19th centuries. First published in Boston around 1690, The New England Primer represented to pious Puritan parents nothing less than the prospect of spiritual salvation for their sons and daughters. It offered instruction leading to the ability to read the Bible—the only book of real significance, they believed. And it prepared the young (should they survive past their first years in an age of dismally high child mortality) for a prayerful life. Later editions—by 1830 there were more than 430—were modified to make note of changing worldly concerns. The alphabet rhyme for "K" in a 1727 edition, for instance, read, "Our King the good/No man of blood," but by 1791, a new sentiment was clearly in order: "The British King/Lost States Thirteen."


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The New England Primer interior page,  alphabet in black text on cream paper in upper and lower case

Interior page of The New-England Primer

Boston, 1843

The New England Primer interior page,  "Easy Syllables for children" in black text on cream paper, underneath are syllables to sound out.

Interior page of The New-England Primer

Boston, 1843

The New England Primer interior page, on the right side of the page are small line drawings on the left side are small sayings for children to learn.

Interior page of The New-England Primer

Boston, 1843