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Shakespeare's Life & Family




Miniature Desk Set containing Shakespeare's Works.

 

In 1564, William Shakespeare was born in the English town of Stratford-upon-Avon.  He was the eldest son of John Shakespeare and his wife Mary Arden. John was a prosperous merchant who became Lord Mayor of Stratford.

 

Shakespeare’s grammar school still survives in Stratford today.  He was most likely instructed in Latin, rhetoric, and religion. Also, he would have studied at his own school desk, like the model here, and read his lessons from “horn books”—text printed on paper or parchment, glued to wood, and covered with a piece of clear animal horn to protect it.

 

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English hornbook. London, 1625?



Additional Information

Horn books, like the one shown above, were used by English children from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries to learn basic reading skills.

 

The earliest examples were made of thin panels of oak wood and had labels bearing the alphabet, numbers, and the Lord's Prayer pasted on them. A very thin and transparent veneer of cattle horn covered the label. A wooden handle was fixed to the frame so that the horn book could easily be held in a child's hand.

 

For more information, see B. Folmsbee's "A Little History of the Horn-book." Stevens, 1965.



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