Around 1600, students in France learnt to read with printed primers. They began with the letters of the alphabet, learning them by playing with little wooden or cardboard tablets or picking them out of books, and then moved on to syllables, which were learnt from syllabaries printed in large letters and containing the Pater noster, Ave Maria, Credo, Confiteor and the Benedicite. When they began to spell out whole words, children moved on to another syllabary containing the Magnificat, the Nunc Dimittis, Salve Regina, the Seven Penitential Psalms and the litanies of the Saints, all of them common prayers. Two pages from Jacques Cossard's Methodes pour apprendre a lire, a escripre, chanter le plain chant, et compter (Paris, 1633) can give us some idea of what these early modern primers looked like (see Figures 1–2). In the first lesson the text of the Pater noster is broken into syllables, whereas in the second lesson the students must discern the syllables of the Ave Maria themselves, a task aided by the small numbers Cossard has placed beneath the text to show how many letters should be read together as a syllable.