American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Reason

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A Common American Language

The Elementary Spelling Book
Noah Webster (1758-1843)
The Elementary Spelling Book.
New York: G.F. Cooledge: [1829]
Rare Book & Special Collections Division (102C)

Noah Webster (1758-1843), a young rural Connecticut school teacher, used his own money to publish his first speller in 1783. His uniform system of pronunciation and spelling helped to unify the new American nation under a common "American" language. Although the book was reissued and revised throughout the nineteenth century, it was the 1829 edition, appearing in blue covers, that became the familiar "blue-back speller," selling more copies in America than any book except the Bible.

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