« AnteriorContinua »
EARLY ENGLISH SCHOOL BOOKS.
The ancient Primer was something very different from the school-books to which we ordinarily give the name. For in dames' schools of which Chaucer speaks, children were provided with few literary luxuries, and had to learn their letters off a scrap of parchment nailed on a board, and in most cases covered with a thin, transparent sheet of horn to protect the precious manuuscript. Hence the term 'hornbook'applied to the elementary books of children. Prefixed to the alphabet, of course, was the Holy Sign of the Cross, and so firm a hold does an old custom get on the popular mind, that down to the commencement of the present century, alphabets continued to preserve their ancient heading, and derived from this circumstance their customary appellation of the Christcross row,' a term so thoroughly established as to find a place in our dictionaries. The Mediæval Primer is, however, best described in the language of the fourteenth century itself. The following language occurs in the introduction to a MS. poem of 300 lines, still preserved in the British Museum, each portion of which begins with a separate letter.
Io place as men may se
That dyed on wod tree. After the difficulties of the primer had been overcome, a great deal of elementary knowledge was taught to the children, as in Saxon times, through the vehicle of verse. For instance, we find a versified geography, of the fourteenth century, of which the two following verses may serve as a specimen, though the second is not very creditable to our mediæval geographers:
This world is delyd (divided), al on thre,
The lond of Macedonie,
These ben all in Asia.
Mi lefe chyld, I kownsel the
And ilk case in plurele
That he be saved in hys kind, &c. There is something in the last fragment very suggestive of the rod. What would have been the fate of the unlucky grammarian, if in spite of this solemn
counsel, he had failed to have the ablative case in his mind, we dare not conjecture. Our forefathers had strict views on the subject of sparing the rod, and spoiling the child. Thus one old writer observes of children in general:
To thir pleyntes mak no grete credence,
Who spareth the rodd all virtue setto asyde Yet the strictness was mingled, as of old, with paternal tenderness, and children appeared to have treated their masters with a singular mixture of familiarity and reverence. And it is pleasant to find among the same collection of school fragments, a little distitch which speaks of peace-making:
Wrath of children son be over gon,
With an apple parties be made at one. There is good reason for believing that schoolboys of the fourteenth century were much what they are in the nineteenth, and fully possessed of that love of robbing orchards, which seems peculiar to the race.
In the 'Pathway to Knowledge,' printed in London in 1596, occur the following verses, composed by W. P., the translator from the Dutch of the order of keeping a Merchant's booke, after the Italian manner of debtor and creditor :'
Thirty days hath September, Aprill, June and November,
Looke how many pence each day thou shalt gaine,
Looke how many farthings in a week doe amount.
In the yeare like shillings, and pence thou shnlt count. Mr. Davies, in his key to Hutton's Course quotes the following from a manuscript of the date of 1570:
Multiplication is mie vexntion,
And Practice drives me mad. In 1600, Thomas Hylles published 'The Arte of Vulgar Arithmeticke, both in integrals and fractions,' to which is added Musa Mercatorum, which gives the following rule for the partition of a shilling into its aliquot parts.'
A farthing first findes fortie eight
Moe parts a shilling can not make. Nicholas Hunt, in 'The Hand-Maid to Arithmetick Refined,' printed in 1633, gives the rule of proof by nines as follows:
Adde thou upright reserving every tenne,
The proofs (for truth I say),
Is to cast nine away.
Chaucer has something to say on this head, but Lydgate's confessions are exceedingly pitiful :
Ran into gardens, apples there I stol,
Than gon to chirche or heer the sacry belle. I must, however, add a few school pictures of a graver and sweeter character. Chaucer, who painted English society as he saw it with his own eyes, has not forgotten to describe the village school where 'an hepe of children comen of Christien blood,' acquired as much learning as was suited to their age.
That is to say to singen and to rede,
As smal children do in thir childhede. And among these children, he describes 'a widewe's lytel sone,' whom his pious mother had taught whenever he saw an image of Christ's mother, to kneel down and say an Ave Maria ; and he goes on to tell us how
This lytel childe, his litel boke lerning,
As he sate in the scole at his primere,
As children lerned the Antiphonere ;
Til he the first verse coulde al by rote. He was too young, however, to understand the meaning of the words, though, be it observed his elder schoolfellows were more erudite than himself:
Nought wist he what this Latin was to say,
For he so yong and tender was of age,
To expounden him this song in his langage,
Or tell him why this song was in usage. When his felow which elder was than be,' expounded the sense of the words, and made him understand that it was sung in reverence of Christ's mother, the little fellow makes known his resolve to do his diligence to con it all by Christmas, in honor of Our Lady. But I need not continue the wellknown story. Ere Christmas came, the widow's son was carried to his grave, and his grammar, the badge of his scholar's profession, lay on the bier at his head.
The first author who wrote an Arithmetic in English was Robert Recorde, who, in 1543, published 'The Grounde of Arts: Teaching the worke and prac tise of Arithmetike, both in whole numbres and fractions, after a more easyer and exacter sorte than any like hath hitherto been sette forthe.' London: J. D.
All youth and Elle that reasons Lore
Within your breasts will plant to trade,
Fyrst vnderstand, than farther wade. Recorde published in 1557: 'The Whetstone of Witte, which is the seconde parte of Arithmetike: containyng the extraction of Rootes: the Cossike practise with the rule of Equation: and the workes of Surde Numbers.' The cossic (from cosa—thing) art, the old name of Algebra, gave to this treatise (the first English work on Algebra) its punning title_cos ingenii.
We propose in this paper to bring together various memoranda which we have made in our reading, respecting the books and mechanical contrivances, and to some extent the modes resorted to in different countries to introduce children to a knowledge of the elements of their mother tongue.
Anciently at the educational institutions of the Bramins in India, a peculiar symbolic use of the letters existed. The letter A, for instance, is represented as god among the letters.
Among the Chinese the first book is the Pe-kia-sing, or Primer, in which the names of the individuals of a hundred families (radicals of a hundred classes of words,) are given to be committed to memory by the pupils. The second book is the T'sa-tse, which contains many things which every body needs to know in everyday life. After this follows the Tsien-tse-ouen, a collection of a thousand letters. The fourth, San-the-king, contains trisyllabic verses, in which are taught the rudiments of morality and history.
In the schools of Persia, more than a thousand years ago, A B C tables came into use, in which A is the first and J the last letter.
In the Greek school the child first learned the letters in their order, each by its name, and not by its sound; that is, Alpha, Beta, &c., to Omega. The letters were probably hung upon a cord, and also described orally, and the scholars set to guessing them out in various ways, according to the inventiveness and animation of the teacher. After this came the special study of the vowels (wvai,) and then the putting together of single letters (ouadaßigerv,) which sounded very much like our old-fashioned spelling; Bet' Alpha, Ba; Bet' Epsilon, Be; Bet Iota, Bi; Gamm' Alpha, Ga, &c. These short words were spelled until this A B Ab was well acquired.
There is not sufficient ground to decide whether there was any systematic method for dividing words into syllables. By this method of learning, it was some time, perhaps several years, before much facility in reading was acquired. The boys tried to distingnish between long and short syllables, to attend to the accent, which is so odd and difficult a matter for us, and especially to observe the musical variation of tone which characterizes the method
of speaking and declaiming in vogue at Athens. Writing was not learned along with reading, but probably after some knowledge had been acquired of the latter.
While the intellectual training of the Spartans was confined to the narrow limits of music and sharpening the intellect, insomuch that they could hardly read or write at all, instruction and education were at Athens upon a very different footing. The demand there for a comprehensive education gave employment to a great number of teachers who instructed each in a separate and exclusive department.
The children learned to read and write in the syllabic method. Dionysius of Halicarnassus writes :
“We first learn the names of the letters, then their forms and length, then syllables and their usual variations. Then we begin to read and to write, but syllable-wise and slowly, until we have acquired some facility, and then connectedly and as we choose. Plato, (Laws, 7, 818,) puts reading and writing together; and he says that boys must study their letters until they can read and write."
The study of reading was a sort of musical instruction ; for the children had to observe the longs and shorts, the raising and lowering of the voice at the syllables, and the greater or less volume of tone. That their reading was very far from being monotonous, and was really a kind of singing, is rendered probable from the general musical character of the Greeks, which would be likely to make their grammatists (teachers) teach and the pupils read more and more in that way, as time proceeded. The greatest speed in reading, writing, and music, was diligently sought.
Amongst the poetical works which were used for reading and memorizing, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey were preëminent, and were also highly esteemed by the Spartans. Æsop also served for a school reading book; and he who was not well acquainted with him, was thought but an ignorant fellow. His fables, however, were used for the smaller boys; the elder read chiefly in Simonides.
Among the various systematized helps was the following :
The sophist Atticus Herodes, (as Philostratus says in his life of him) to assist his son, who had small intellectual endowments, and so poor a memory that he could not learn his letters, got together twenty-four boys of the same age, to whom he gave the names of the letters, and instructed them along with his son, that by calling his companions by name, he might learn the alphabet.
Among the early Romans there were no public schools, but children received their instruction from tutors or pedagogues. This pedagogue, who was usually an old slave, had often the duty not