Hillard's Primer

Hillard’s Primer. Edited, in pronouncing Orthography, by Edwin Leigh. (Brewer & Tileston, Boston.)—The history of this book, if it were told, would be something romantic. The editor speaks in his preface of "the labors of years" as culminating in this small volume, which it is safe to say a casual observer might never suspect of any peculiarity, though in this very fact lies the triumph of the educator. Mr. Leigh has worked long, persistently, with an enthusiasm and a degree of hopefulness which sometimes are called fanaticism, sometimes, when a new world is to be discovered or two worlds united by a cable, heroism. He has endured disappointments and privations like other discoverers—the imperfections of his own system, the indifference of educators, the doubts of publishers, the delays of his font-makers. He has lived on a crust, but has lived, and here is his reward, or ought to be. What, in brief, is his system? Mr. Leigh went from Massachusetts and Horace Mann to Missouri, to pursue the high calling of a teacher. He had long taught the phonetic method of orthography and orthoepy, and knew by experience how much it saved the pupil in time and the teacher in patience. But the odd characters and the new-fangled spelling never commended themselves to the general public. What the child has learned here, it was said, he must unlearn when he returns to the ordinary text. The objection was not fatal to the theory, but it was to its practical success. Mr. Leigh thought it not impossible to get the Roman characters so little modified that the transition in them would be imperceptible, and in spelling, nil. And this he has done, in the most ingenious and thorough manner, and he has persuaded Messrs. Brewer & Tileston to adapt a popular primer to his lettering. The system commends itself on its face ; it is simple, easy, interesting, familiar. It is compatible with any mode of teaching, though here it is combined with that which employs words before single letters. We commend it to the teachers of primary schools and to the mothers of young children everywhere. If employed at the South, it would, we are persuaded, render the greatest assistance to the teachers of the freedmen, and shorten for the latter the interval (which it is so desirable to shorten) between them and the culture of civilization.

From the magazine "The Nation," 20 September 1866, ex-Library of Congress copy.