Horn book

Donation by John and Josephine Landwehr-Vogels
Acquisition: 2005
Date: 1800-1850
Size: 10 x 6 cm.
Call number: SMC K 1000

These predecessors to the grammar school primer have become very rare. Alphabet boards used to be articles of daily use to provide children with their first reading lessons. They were produced and used in large numbers until the end of the eighteenth century. There were two types of alphabet boards; those with letters carved or painted on a wooden board, and 'horn books', which were planks with a sheet of hand-written or printed letters fastened under a layer of horn. They usually displayed the alphabet in lower- and upper-case, and sometimes also numbers and the Lord's Prayer.
This horn book has a sheet with hand-written letters and a layer of horn attached to the plank with leather strips. From Jaap ter Linden's A is een aapje , which was published in 1995, only four of these horn books were known to exist in the Netherlands; in the Mr. Simon van Gijn Museum in Dordrecht, in the National Museum of Education in Rotterdam, one in a private collection and one owned by a antiquarian bookseller. Prints and paintings illustrate how they were used by the children. The alphabet boards hang by a cord tied around their waists.

According to the Autobiografie (1778-1854)by the educator Willem van den Hull from Haarlem, the children also wore these boards around their necks. This rare horn book was part of a large donation of one thousand children's books and 165 children's prints, most dating from the nineteenth century. The Koninklijke Bibliotheek acquired this collection from the Landwehr-Vogels family in 2005. The collection contains various types of books: publications by foreign publishers producing for the Dutch market, alphabet books, drawing books, fantasy stories, picture books, fairy tales, contour books, nursery rhymes, advertising publications, children's books by the publisher Campagne and authors and illustrators such as J.J.A. Goeverneur and Daan Hoeksema. (JK)