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Horn-Books (A Student Response) – Nousheen Leila Saboonpaz

July 21, 2010 Student Projects 1 Comment

At the Mary Greg handling session I was completely overwhelmed by the vast amount of objects the collection held, I didn’t know where to start with picking out something to set my project on, I could have happily spent the whole day just opening up the cabinets. But a few objects had really intrigued me, these where the Horn books, which I found out where used as learning aids for children. One of the books had a sticker on the back, onto which someone had written “Probably never been used”, who’d written it..I don’t know…Mary Greg herself? Its a possibility. I took as many photographs as I could and headed to the All Saints Library, where I found a book called “History of the Horn-Book”, which to my surprise had never been taken out from the library. In the book I found images of the horn-books I had seen in the collection (pages 117 and 357), along with some beautiful drawings of Horn-Books being used, worn and enjoyed. 

 From what I had discovered in my research I have created jewellery which can be worn and interacted with, just as the Horn-Books where. I wanted my pieces to be large and a burden to wear. The books hold personal chores, sort of a to do list of things I am always putting to the back of my mind, and daft things that I can never remember, the 7 times table for example, and little rhymes from school, I have made my own Horn-Book effectively, something I enjoy wearing and will always remind me of what I have taken from the Mary Greg collection.

  Nousheen Leila Saboonpaz

One of the horn-books in the Mary Greg Collection

books almost identical to those in Mary’s collection in “History of the Horn-book” from the MMU library

Page from the book showing horn-books being worn

One of my responses in metal and paper

a wearable one with pages open

Books And Learning

June 5, 2010 The Collection Comments Off on Books And Learning

Besides the objects in the collection there is also a wonderful collection of children’s books.  Some of these were on display at Heaton Hall, certainly during the mid 1930’s.  Batho writes to Mary in July that year saying

…Darlington showed me some very nice wall cases that had been made to hold the large-sized children’s books.  He turns the pages over daily so that the children from the summer camp in the park have an opportunity of reading something new everyday.

The educational remit of the collection was a strong driving factor in it’s initial assembling.  I have amassed further evidence of this which I am currently trying to unravel and will post more at a later date.  Sharon

Box tray of miniature books

Bertie's Indestructible Horn Books

Inside Bertie's Horn Book

Pages from the children's book collection

Alphabet Fan Book

Alphabet Counters

Alphabet Counters
Lid from a box of counters, each inscribed with letters of the alphabet from the Mary Greg Collection

Lid from a box of counters, each inscribed with letters of the alphabet from the Mary Greg Collection

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!


Horn Books

July 24, 2009 The Collection Comments Off on Horn Books

I was interested in the Horn Books that Mary collected so many of and looked up one of the books she gave to the gallery in Aug 1925; History of Horn Books by Tuer. Here is a picture from the book. Hopefully I’ll be able to find the text and learn more about it.  Melanie

young girl holding a hornbook

Miss Campion holding a hornbook, 1661, from Tuer's History of Horn Books