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An ABC-book

An ABC-book (a primer)   is the first book for teaching and learning to read. It is a miniature encyclopaedia in which the knowledge of the achievements in different spheres of life, geography, a nation’s history and culture is given. This first elementary school-book is a symbiosis of pedagogics and linguistics. It is a symbol of knowledge and school. An ABC-book is a reflection of a people’s mentality.

The old joiner Gepetto sold his coat in order to buy a book for a wooden doll Pinocchio. Of course, that book was a primer!

The mission of an ABC-book is to lead little tots into the world of letters, to teach them to read their mother tongue. With an ABC-book the ascent of the mountain of knowledge begins. The higher one goes, the wider the horizon opens.

ABC-books are as different as nations and languages are: for children in kindergartens, for the first class pupils, for the grown-ups, for the blind, for the deaf... Diversity and uniqueness in the world of the ABC-books are really admirable, just like the wonders of the world of languages themselves:

  • in Turkish there is only one irregular verb whereas in English there are 283. At the same time in Esperanto there is none;
  • in Chippewa (North America) a verb has about 12,000 verbal forms;
  • in Tabasaran (Dagestan) there are 48 noun cases;
  • in Kabardian a pronoun has 28 persons;
  • the alphabets of Hawaiian and Rotokas are the shortest ones with 12 and 11 letters respectively;
  • in Ubykh there are 80–85 consonant phonemes and one vowel phoneme a ;
  • in Tangma (Papua New Guinea) there are only two words for colours, namely, muli – black, green and mola – white, red, yellow;
  • in Dyirbal (Australia) there are four genders – masculine, feminine, neuter and edible. There are no genders in English, Estonian;
  • in French you count as follows: (4 × 20) + (10 + 9) = 99;
  • in Danish: 9 + 4 1⁄2 × 20 = 99 or 9 + (5 – 1⁄2) × 20 = 99,
  • but in Ainu: (10 – 1) + (10 – 5 × 20) = 99.

The surprising diversity of ABC-books depends upon the inner structure of a language, a teaching method (spelling, sound, analytic-synthetic, global...), printing and publishing possibilities, and a nation’s mentality. In a primer just like in a water drop the demands of the epoch and the level of a nation’s culture are reflected. It is a graphic example how a nation uses its head and how the nation thinks about its children’s future.

here are about 10,290 ABC-books in my collection. They are from 220 countries and in 1,180 languages. The collection has been exhibited 190 times in museums, libraries, schools and clubs of Latvia. But in 1987 in Moscow in the Exhibition of the Achievements of the National Economy of the USSR; the collection was awarded a silver medal. In 2006 the collection was displayed in Thessaloniki (Greece), in 2011 – in Pskov (Russia), in 2012 – in Orsha and Grodno (Belarus), in 2013 in Pärnu (Estonia), in 2014 – in the National Library of Latvia (Riga), in 2018 – in the National Library of Belarus (Minsk).

Together with the philologist Lidija Leikuma, I have written a primer in the Latgalian language (1992). It has been displayed in the World’s VIP Centre in Shenzhen (China). In 2014 our digital Latgalian primer appeared and it was published in 2017.

In 1996 my Latvian primer was published. It was displayed in the International Book Fair in Frankfurt am Main (Germany) in October 1996.

In 2009 my book “Latgalian Primers (1768–2008)” was published.

In 2011 and 2014 my book “The Book of Purlova” was published. It contains a primer in the Purlovas subdialect of the Latgalian language.

In 2012 the catalogue of my collection was published in three volumes.

In 2020 the book of reference “The collection of primers and ABC-books of peoples of the world” was published. It provides information on my collection in 30 languages.

Anyone who can help me to enrich my collection is welcome.

a/k 121,
Marijas ielā 20
Rīgā, LV-1011