The New England Primer

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The New England Primer
New England Primer Cover.jpg
Published by Benjamin Franklin
Author Benjamin Harris[1]
Year Published 1690
Language English

The New England Primer, also known as the little Bible of New England, was an early textbook for use in the American Colonies.[2]

The Primer was first published prior to 1690.[3] It was used as a primary textbook among other texts, such as Dilworth's Spelling Book, the Psalter, and the Testament.[4]


The New England Primer played a most important part in the early history of the education of the Americans. Notices referring to the Primer in America go back as far as 1691, when an advertisement appeared in the pages of Newman’s Boston Almanac. This announcement of Benjamin Harris in Boston speaks of a second impression but not a single copy of this early New England Primer seems to be extant. The first book owned by every American of those days seems not to have been preserved with great care, which indicates that these books, once printed, were heavily used.[2]

Livermore, a keen and eager collector, was unable to find a copy printed earlier than 1775. Ford with other discovered material in his hands could go back to the copy in the New York Public Library, dated 1727, which remains the earliest New England Primer known to be extant. Between the years 1680 and 1830 about six and one-half million Primers were printed, of which about 1,500 are still in existence.[5]


Washington Irving alludes to the entry for the letter L in his classic tale "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow": "like the lion bold, which whilom so magnanimously the lamb did hold"[6]

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