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ABC books come in many formats, shapes, and sizes and are some of the earliest texts given to children. For cultural historians of childhood, they are also significant in that the books are very revealing of the society that produced them. This is perhaps an inadvertent by-product of the overtly pedagogical aim in teaching the letters. Alphabet books have a long history stretching back before the invention of printing in the West and include beautiful manuscript abecedariums with illuminated alphabets in Latin. These were directed to noble and clerical audiences, not specifically to children; only a few people could read Latin, and most education was connected with religion. For children, hornbooks existed in the medieval period and were popular until the 18th century.

In the early ...

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