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The Indiana Law Library Blog

A Brief Look at Hornbooks

An interesting question came up in the reference office the other day–why are hornbooks called hornbooks?

It turns out that a hornbook was originally a primer of sorts.  It was usually a single sheet of paper attached to a handle that looked like a paddle.  To protect the paper a thin sheet of cow’s horn was stretched over the paddle.  This is much simpler than our hornbooks in the library, but old hornbooks were meant to give children a start in spelling and reading, and legal hornbooks are meant to give students a start in a particular area of law.

If you are interested, take a look at this history, or at some of the pictures that IUPUI put together.



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