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The copybook was used for best work. It was the showpiece of a child’s learning, and good handwriting was considered very important in an age before typewriters or computers. The copybook was ruled with lines and at the top of the page was printed a sentence, usually a proverb or wise saying, that was to be copied on each line to the bottom of the page. The aim was to fill the page with lines of almost identical, neat script. If the book did not have a printed line to copy the teacher would write something on the blackboard to be copied. The idea of using a proverb or wise saying was that the mind of the pupil would be improved whilst carrying out the mechanical task of copying. Care had to be taken when using a dip pen that the writing was spoilt with a smudge or blob of ink, and pupils soon learned not to blot their copybook, an expression we still use today for a serious misdemeanour.
The Exercise Book
The exercise book was used for recording information from the blackboard and for performing tasks such as sums. Younger pupils would use a slate rather than an exercise book.