Whilst researching horn books I came across an article by W.S. Churchill, ‘Nuremburg Alphabetical Tokens’ in Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, (vol.20, 1902). Churchill talks about traders who worked at the mint in Nuremburg around the mid 16th century. They would make metal counters, usually out of copper or brass with each letter of the alphabet on them, and they were generally one inch in diameter. Some counters had biblical characters, or figures from Roman history on them instead of the alphabet. Although our counters are bone or ivory I thought there could be some link.
Churchill’s article was closely linked with William E.A. Axon’s ‘Horn Books and ABC’s’ from the same journal. It details that hornbooks would also include prayers. The Pater Noster, Ave Maria and the Crede. Juliet O’ Conor also writes about the hornbook noting that they were an item that all strands of society had access to. In its basic form it was an educational aid to poorer children and in its most extravagant the horn book could be made of ivory or silver and become a family heirloom.
‘There are anecdotal references to the use of horn-books made of gingerbread, which meant that a reward for children mastering their letters was readily at hand’
I particularly like this idea!