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Activity 2.2: Make a hornbook


Reproduction of a hornbook, from A. Tuer 'A History of the Horn-Book', 1897, York Minster Library, reproduced by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter of York
This activity explains how to make a hornbook, a tool for helping children learn to read, that was used during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

  1. Display the picture of the hornbook (clicking on the picture will display a larger image).
  1. Explain that a hornbook did not open and close like an ordinary book.  It was made up of one sheet of paper, or parchment, which was attached to a wooden board.  The board usually had a handle for the children to hold (rather like a traditional chopping board).  To protect it, a very thin, translucent sheet, made from animal horn was nailed over the paper.  The children could still read the words through the horn sheet.
  1. You can make a hornbook from stiff card and paper.  Cut shapes of stiff card using this template:
 A221 hornbook template.pdf
  1. Print out the hornbook text and cut it to size.  Glue the hornbook text onto the card.
A222 hornbook text.pdf
  1. To make the hornbook look more 'authentic', you could cover the paper with a piece of cream or yellow cellophane, attaching it to the card with paper fasteners.
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