Noah Webster and his Spelling-book 175
Until the Grammatical Institute became The Elementary Spelling-book in 1829, the usual binding consisted of a back of leather and sides of thin oaken boards pasted over with a dull blue paper. Blue paper of a somewhat brighter tint was used on the later editions, and the speller was often spoken of as " The Old Blue-back." Up to the time of the Elementary, the cover was entirely without lettering. The sheets were held together and fastened into the cover by means of two strands of tape that pierced the folds of paper a quarter inch from the back, and the book opened very stubbornly. In fact it could" never be induced to be outspread flat unless the tape was severed. The paper was coarse, the ink poor, and the print varied from muddy blackness to a faint illegibility.
For the first two or three years that the children attended school, during the earlier decades of the Republic, Webster's speller was their chief textbook. Not only was it primer and spelling-book combined, but there was a formidable introduction containing an " Analysis of Sounds in the English Language," to be learned word for word. The Analysis begins with this definition : —
Language or speech is the utterance of articulate sounds or voices, rendered significant by usage, for the expression and communication of thoughts.
The rest of the explanations were in the same vein. Of course they failed to convey their meaning to the child mind, and the teacher offered no elucidation.
After the introduction there was a page devoted