The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXIII. Education

§ 24. Noah Webster

The earliest and most influential of these textbook writers was Noah Webster (1758–1843), whose fame as a lexicographer has long outlived his fame as textbook writer. In explanation of his work he wrote: “In 1782, while the American army was lying on the banks of the Hudson, I kept a classical school at Goshen, N. Y. The country was impoverished; intercourse with Great Britain was interrupted, and schoolbooks were scarce and hardly attainable.” Accordingly, in 1783 he issued the first part of his Grammatical Institute of the English Language, Comprising an Easy, Concise, and Systematic Method of Education Designed for the Use of English Schools in America. This was a combination speller, reader, and grammer, which had patriotic as well as educational aims. Out of it grew various modifications, the most noted of which was The American Speller. This is the premier American textbook, of which more than seventy-five million copies have been sold and which still has its devotees. In 1806 appeared his Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, which in its school or in its unabridged form has ever since been a familiar and popular work of reference.