The collection consists of six penmanship and cypher books kept by William L. Shimer, Susanna M. Shimer, and Nathan M. Shimer of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in the 1840s and 1850s and one alphabet card with lower-case and upper-case letters. The blank books include illustrated covers and several have calligraphic titles for their sections. Four of them are dated and range from 1846 to 1853. The cypher books include exercises for arithmetic, fractions, accounting, and weights and measures, with many examples relating to practical issues like farming, business, and estates. Penmanship exercises include the copying of moral proverbs, common business abbreviations, strings of letters, and phrases. Two of the penmanship books are associated with writing systems: George J. Becker's The American System of Penmanship, and Bayson, Dunton and Scribner's National System of Penmanship.
- Uriah Hunt & Son, Booksellers, Philadelphia
- Leary's Cheap Book Store, Philadelphia
- Brower, Hayes & Co., Booksellers and Stationers, Philadelphia
- Henry J. Oerter's Cheap Book & Stationery Store, Bethlehem
- Crosby & Ainsworth, Publishers, Boston
The cover of William L. Shimer's 1848 exercise book includes an inscription "L. Shimer, Co. A 10 reg. Militia Pa."