The American Spelling Book

Children's Literature

Background Notes

Noah Webster (1758-1843), best known for his compilation of the American English dictionary, was also famous in his day for The American Spelling Book. This book, first published in 1783, was a very popular textbook for young children in the nineteenth century. By the end of the century, it had sold 100 million copies.1 It not only taught students how to read and spell, but also provided lessons on subjects such as morality and the principles of American government. This last was particularly close to the heart of Webster's work, for through his dictionary, speller, and other educational work, he hoped to create a distinctly American culture and language.2

Through its many editions, Webster contracted with local publishers to make copies for their regions. This particular version was printed by Isaiah Thomas and his partner, Ebenezer T. Andrews.3

1. Joshua Kendall, The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster's Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2010), 7.
2. Ibid., 74-75.
3. Ibid., 92-93.

Curator Notes

Exact Title: 
The American Spelling book: Containing an Easy Standard of Pronunciation.
20th edition
Noah Webster
Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews
Place of Publication: 
Boston, Massachusetts
Historical Theme: