The New England Primer


American Antiquarian Society
185 Salisbury Street
Worcester, MA 01609
United States

In 1995, The American Antiquarian Society acquired one of the two earliest known copies of the New England Primer. Considered a staple text of Puritan childhood that taught letters, reading, and religion, the first edition of the New England Primer was most likely printed between 1683 and 1690, either in London or Boston. Early printings of the text, such as the AAS copy that was printed in 1727, are extremely scarce because of heavy use by generations of children and families. When the copy came to AAS, it too was in an extremely battered state and required extensive conservation.

During this virtual program, AAS curator of children’s literature Laura Wasowicz and historian Kyle Roberts will unpack the complex cultural history of the New England Primer and how AAS came to acquire a copy. Babette Gehnrich, AAS chief conservator, will discuss the significant efforts taken to conserve the fragile early eighteenth-century primer and will provide a live demonstration of some conservation techniques.


Kyle Roberts is the Associate Director of Library & Museum Programming of the American Philosophical Society Library & Museum. Prior to coming to the APS Library & Museum, Roberts was an Associate Professor of Public History and New Media and Director of the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities at Loyola University Chicago. A scholar of early America, a public historian, and digital humanist, Roberts is Member of the AAS and he won the 2013 Schiller Prize for Bibliographical Work on Pre-20th-Century Children’s Books from the Bibliographical Society of America for his essay, “Rethinking The New-England Primer,” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 104:4 (December 2010).