• WordNet 3.6
    • n hornbook a primer that provides instruction in the rudiments or basic skills of a branch of knowledge
    • ***
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Hornbook A book containing the rudiments of any science or branch of knowledge; a manual; a handbook.
    • Hornbook The first book for children, or that from which in former times they learned their letters and rudiments; -- so called because a sheet of horn covered the small, thin board of oak, or the slip of paper, on which the alphabet, digits, and often the Lord's Prayer, were written or printed; a primer. "He teaches boys the hornbook ."
    • ***
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n hornbook A leaf or page, usually one containing the alphabet, the nine digits, and the Lord's Prayer, covered with transparent horn and fixed in a frame with a handle: formerly used in teaching children to read.
    • n hornbook Hence A book containing the first principles of any science or branch of knowledge; a primer.
    • ***
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • Hornbook a first book for children, which formerly consisted of a single leaf set in a frame, with a thin plate of transparent horn in front to preserve it
    • ***


Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
A.S. horn; Scand. and Ger. horn, Gael. and W. corn, L. cornu, Gr. keras.


In literature:

I gave him credit both for his ignorance of the very hornbook of honor and for his large share of the milk of human kindness.
"To Have and To Hold" by Mary Johnston
Why am I an enigma as dark as the Sibyls, and your metaphysicians as plain as a hornbook?
"A Strange Story, Complete" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
In Time's hornbook ambition is an early lesson, and these scholars had conned it well.
"Sir Mortimer" by Mary Johnston
It was difficult to get books in those days, and a hornbook would last a long time.
"Stories of New Jersey" by Frank Richard Stockton
But I swear to thee I never read through the hornbook of the heavens.
"The Book of Khalid" by Ameen Rihani
It was then called a hornbook.
"The Making of William Edwards" by Mrs. G. Linnaeus Banks
Her heart gave a great bound, and looking up from the children's hornbook in glad surprise, she smiled gratefully on him.
"The Maid of Honour, Vol. 1 (of 3)" by Lewis Wingfield
It probably resembled this typical hornbook in the collection of Mrs. Arthur M.
"The Cultural History of Marlborough, Virginia" by C. Malcolm Watkins
One tribute of married men I particularly admired at, who, instead of horns, wore, engrafted on their forehead, a sort of hornbook.
"The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb" by Charles Lamb

In poetry:

Again his horn Sir Hornbook blew,
Full long, and loud, and shrill;
His merrymen all, so stout and true,
Went marching up the hill.
"Sir Hornbook" by Thomas Love Peacock
The twain were seized: Sir Hornbook blew
His bugle loud and shrill:
His merrymen all, so stout and true,
Went marching up the hill.
"Sir Hornbook" by Thomas Love Peacock
Thereat full much, Sir Syntax said,
But found resistance vain:
And through his grove Childe Launcelot sped,
With all Sir Hornbook's train.
"Sir Hornbook" by Thomas Love Peacock
—"Ho! yield, Sir Syntax!"—Hornbook cried,
"This youth must pass thy grove,
Led on by me, his faithful guide,
In yonder bowers to rove."—
"Sir Hornbook" by Thomas Love Peacock
Sir Hornbook took Childe Launcelot's hand,
And tears at parting fell:
—"Sir Childe,"—he said,—"with all my band
I bid you here farewell.
"Sir Hornbook" by Thomas Love Peacock
—"What ho! Childe Launcelot! seize them there,
And look you have them sure!"—
—Sir Hornbook cried,—"my men shall bear
Your captives off secure."—
"Sir Hornbook" by Thomas Love Peacock