A primer (in this sense usually pronounced /ˈprɪmər/,[1] sometimes /ˈprmər/, usually the latter in modern British English[2]) is a first textbook for teaching of reading, such as an alphabet book or basal reader. The word also is used more broadly to refer to any book that presents the most basic elements of any subject.[3] Secular primer textbooks developed out of medieval religious primer prayer books and educationally-oriented revisions of these devotionals proliferated during the English Reformation.[4]

The Latin Enschedé Abecedarium of the late 15th century, translated into English as the Salisbury Prymer, has been identified as the earliest example of a printed primer. It presented the alphabet and several Catholic prayers.[5]

Other historical examples of primers for children include:

See also


  1. ^ "primer, n.1". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  2. ^ "Oxford Dictionaries Online". Retrieved 8 October 2022.
  3. ^ For example: DeSalle, Rob; Rosenfeld, Jeffrey (2013). Phylogenomics: A Primer. Garland Science. ISBN 978-0815342113.
  4. ^ Cross, F.L.; Livingstone, E.A., eds. (1997). "Primer". The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed.). London: Oxford University Press. p. 1327. ISBN 0-19-211655-X.
  5. ^ A Famous Book — "The New England Primer", The New York Times, November 14, 1897