Indiana University Bloomington



The New England Primer is an eighteenth-century American textbook intended to teach literacy and Puritan theology. The most popular children’s book in early New England, it was sold in almost every local bookshop and general store for over a century. Scholars have estimated that between 1680 and 1830, between six and eight million copies of the Primer were printed. It was also probably the first American work of literature to be popular abroad—Puritan children in England and Scotland used it. The New England Primer includes a variety of genres across a range of reading levels: alphabets, emblems, proverbs, prayers, poetry, and moral tales. It is unclear when the New England Primer was first published, but it was probably first issued sometime during the 1680s or 1690s by Benjamin Harris and remained popular until the around the 1830s.

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