Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 337 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PRIMER AND PRIMING PRIME. These three words are to be referred to Lat. primus, first, " prime," in O. Eng. prim, occurs first in the ecclesiastical sense of the Latin prima hora, the first hour, one of the lesser canonical hours of the Roman Church (see BREVIARY). Hence the word " primer " (Med. Lat. primarius), i.e. a book of hours. This was a book for the use of the laity and-not strictly a service book. These books originally contained parts of the offices for the canonical hours, the penitential and other psalms, the Litany, devotional prayers and other matter. There were several " Primers " printed in the reign of Henry VIII.; the King's Primer of 1545 contained the Calendar, the Commandments, Creed, Lord's Prayer, the penitential psalms, Litany and prayers for special occasions. The primer of William Marshall, the printer and reformer, 1534, is entitled The Prymer in Englyshe, with certeyn prayers and godly meditations, very necessary for all people that understande not the Latyne Tongue. Later, these primers contained the Catechism, graces before and after meals, and the A. B. C. They were published for children, like the earlier Sarum Primer (1537), and became educational in purpose, as reading books. The earlier primers were also used in this way, as is shownby the " litel child " of Chaucer's Prioress's Tale, who sitting " at his prymer, redemptorie herde synge." Thus " primer " or " primmer " became the regular name for an elementary book for learners. For the type known as " great primer " and " long primer," see TYPOGRAPHY. Apart from the use of " prime " as the period of greatest vigour of life, the first of the guards in fencing, and for those numbers which have no divisors except themselves and unity (see ARITHMETIC), the principal use is that of the verb, in the sense of to insert in the pan of an old-fashioned small arm, the " primer," containing powder which, on explosion by percussion, fires the charge. This use seems to be due to " priming " being the first stage in the discharge of the weapon. Finally " priming " is the first coat of size or colour laid on a surface as a preparation for the body colour.
PRIMERO (Span. first)

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