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American Primers and Readers

Featuring the Words and Collection of Richard L. Venezky

An online exhibition of the Cubberley Education Library, Stanford University

Phonetics

Overview of Phonetics exhibit case

"Decoding in the Webster spelling book, and in most spellers up to the 1820s, was taught via a progression from phonetic rules, to tables of consonant-vowel and vowel-consonant syllables (e.g., ba, be, bi, bo...), to three-letter syllables…and finally to words" (Venezky, 1987, p. 254).

Detail of left side of exhibit case

"Toward the middle portion of the nineteenth century, the nonsense syllables disappeared—particularly as a true primer (in the modern sense) developed—and the complicated pronunciation and syllable division rules were relegated to the higher-level classes" (Venezky, 1987, p. 255).

Detail from Monroe's Primer showing sounds of m, n, and a.

"Monroe’s Chart Primer (1877) was one of the most systematic exemplars of synthetic phonics that existed in the nineteenth century. Sounds were introduced aurally first, then shown in print" (Venezky, 1987, p. 255).

Detail of right side of exhibit case
Deseret Second Reader title page

The Regents of the Deseret University. 1868. The Deseret second book. Salt Lake City, UT.

Detail of Beacon Phonetic Chart title page

Fassett, James H. 1912. The Beacon phonetic chart. Boston : Ginn and Company.

Beacon Phonetic Chart, Panel 1
Deseret Second Reader phonetic legend Introduction to the Beacon Phonetic Chart Beacon Phonetic Chart, Panel 2

Fassett, James H. 1912. The Beacon phonetic chart. Boston : Ginn and Company.

Detail of pp. 16-17 of the Beacon Primer

Fassett, James H. 1912. The Beacon primer. Boston : Ginn and Company.

"Similar approaches to decoding were incorporated in The Beacon Primer in the early twentieth century, which also stressed sound blending and carefully separated decodable ('phonetic') from irregular ('unphonetic') words" (Venezky, 1987, p. 255).

Detail of pp. 6-7 of the Deseret Second Book

The Regents of the Deseret University. 1868. The Deseret second book. Salt Lake City, UT.

Detail of frontispiece of The Elementary Spelling Book

Webster, Noah. 1783. A grammatical institute of the English language: comprising an easy, concise, and systematic method of education: designed for the use of English schools in America: in three parts: part I containing a new and accurate standard of pronunciation. Hartford: Printed by Hudson & Goodwin for the author.