A little reminder from the 19th century & Horn Book

Posted by Berkhamsted Admin on 05 Apr 2023

Modified by Berkhamsted Admin on 07 Apr 2023

A little reminder from the 19th century & Horn Book
Pupils Notes comp

These unremarkable scraps of paper were found under the benches in the old Lecture Room.

The boys W.H. Smith and T.S. Dick came to the school in 1891 and 1894 respectively, unfortunately I cannot find a record for young Markham. The boys obviously wanted to leave a little reminder of themselves for future generations and chose Euclid Hour with Mr.Parsons to do it. I’m sure that is no reflection on his teaching!

The following is written on the smallest scrap of paper: “ T.S. Dick Oct. 16th ’96. Whoever finds this may keep it by kind permission of the above but must not use it for any unlawful purpose.” 

When you turn it over, another hand, possibly Smiths has added “By this time I expect we shall be no more.”  How true, as the remnants come to light, 120 years later.

Horn book

Quite often, I come across objects that have been previously placed, many years ago, for safe keeping or display around the school, and are then forgotten about. One such object, kept in the fireplace of one of the House rooms, was a broken triple frame, with what looked like a cut up leaflet and a sellotaped brown blob in the central aperture. The brown blob turned out to be this little 18th century Horn Book. The name horn book was widely used to denote a form of primer, a device for teaching and at about the end of the 17th century, this name was applied to ABC tablets. The horn books were made of various materials such as bone, ivory, wood, leather or metal.

A piece of wood, which was shaped with a handle at the base, had a hole in the handle, allowing a cord to be threaded and tied to a belt or girdle. The backing was usually covered with leather, though some could be silver backed with elaborate designs.

Horn book page

A printed sheet, which might show the alphabet, the Lord’s Prayer or numerals, was fastened to the wood and protected with a very thin, transparent sheet of either cow or ox horn: hence the given name. The letters J and U are missing, they were considered interchangeable with I and V and not introduced until a later date. This example also has the numbers 1 to 0. I am hoping that I can find out a little more about this particular item and if I do, I shall share with you at a later date. It is now on display in the Exhibition Room.


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