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Books on the Blind and Deaf from the
Arnold Semeiology Collection



JOHN BULWER (fl. 1654)
Chirologia; or, The Natvrall Langvage of the Hand.
London, Tho. Harper, 1644.

Finger gestures from John Bulwer's 'Chirologia'

A work dealing with communication by sign language and gesture, Chirologia won for its author the appellation "Chirosopher." The work's chief concern is the various ways in which the hand can be used to express both words and abstract concepts. Bulwer maintained that signs are the natural language of the all persons, not just of the deaf. An early pioneer in the education of the deaf, Bulwer was the first to propose an "academy of the mute." He developed the technique of lip-reading, first proposed in his Philocophus; or, The Deafe and Dumbe Man's Friend (London, 1648), and brought attention to the capacity to enjoy music through the medium of the teeth. Bulwer knew of the manual alphabet, but makes no suggestions with regard to speaking on the fingers. His work evidences the strong influence of Juan Pablo Bonet (1579-1633), whose Reduction de las Letras y Arte para Enseñar a Ablar los Mudos (Madrid, 1620) advocated training the student in speech through the reduction of letters of the alphabet to their phonetic value. (Galland p. 31; Guyot p. 403; NUC 84:126 (NB 0950611); Wing B5462)


DENIS DIDEROT (1713-1784)
Lettre sur les Sourds et Muets [et Lettre sur les Aveugles]
Amsterdam, 1772.

Best known for his Encyclopédie (Paris, 1751-72) in these two essays Diderot seeks to show the dependence of man's ideas upon the five senses, and the way in which the intellect is affected when deprived of one of them. Philosophically, the two pieces are important in that they expound an early form of the principle of the relativity of knowledge. Lettre sur les Sourds et Muets first appeared in 1751. Addressing the problem of the origin, nature, and aesthetic value of language, Diderot maintains that French has certain advantages over Greek and Latin. Within this context he considers the effect of deaf-mutism. He first brought out Lettre sure les Aveugles in 1749. In it he presents a theory of survival by superior adaptation. As an example of adaptation, he maintains that the blind might be taught to read through the sense of touch. The two essays appear together in this edition, although the title page lists only the Lettre sur les Sourds et Muets. (Guyot p. 42; NUC 143:284 (ND 0258338)


JAMES HATLEY FRERE (1779-1866)
The Gospel According to Saint Matthew.
[London, Printed for the Blackhearth Society for Embossing the Scriptures for the Blind by Barritt and Co., 1841]

Known also as a Biblical exegete, Frere about 1838 introduced a phonetic system for enabling the blind to read. To reduce the bulk of embossed books, Frere based his system upon shorthand rather than the standard alphabet. His system consists of raised characters, including straight lines, whole and half circles, hooked lines, and angles, set in return lines; that is, lines reading alterately from left to right and right to left. Frere devised a cheap method for stereotyping his books, employing copper wires formed in the shape of his characters and soldered on the embossing plate. Saint Matthew is part of a nine-volume series of the New Testament embossed in Frere's system. During his lifetime, he was also able to have printed the Book of Isaiah (London, 1843-1849). His system was not widely adopted because it was found to have adverse effects upon pronunciation. This copy of Saint Matthew includes a short pamphlet by Frere explaining how to teach his system.


SEBASTIEN GUILLIE (1780-1865)
Notice Historique sur l'Instruction des Jeunes Aveugles.
Paris, Imprimé par les Jeunes Aveugles, 1819.

Guillie is the author of several works on the eye, and on education of the blind. Notice is a rare work, printed with script letters in bold relief on light cardboard sheets, a technique invented by Valentin Haüy (1745-1822). It includes a history of the Institution Royale des Jeunes Aveugles de Paris, founded in 1784, of which Guillie was director. A second section gives details on the manner of making books in relief, and on teaching reading in relief. Notice is essentially a revision of the first two chapters of part three of Guillie's Essai sur l'Instruction des Aveugles (Paris, 1817). (BMC 94:312; Guyot p. 446; NUC 222:640 (NG 0592679))


CHARLES MICHEL DE L'EPEE (1712-1789)
Institution des Sourds et Muets.
Paris, Nyone l'Aine, 1776.

Lawyer and priest, L'Epée turned his attention to the instruction of the deaf upon being deprived of his priestly functions because of Jansenist sympathies. In 1755 he founded his own school for teaching the deaf, which in 1791 became the Insitution Nationale des Sourds-Muets à Paris by action of the National Assembly. In Institution des Sourds ed Muets, first published in 1774, L'Epée puts forth his theories on teaching the deaf to communicate by signs, a method which he was the first to fully develop. He emphasizes the importance of having the pupil master signs and writing before advancing to lip-reading and articulation. L'Epée was much influenced by Joan Pablo Bonet's advocacy of teaching a manual alphabet to the student, and by the Dissertatio de Loquela (Amsterdam, 1700) of Jan Coenrad Amman, on the production of vocal sounds. Opposition to his methods came chiefly from Giacobbo Rodriguez Pereira (1715-1780). (BMC 111:738; Bibliothèque Nationale XCV:186; Stojan 537)


WILLIAM MOON (1818-1894)
The Three Epistles of Saint John, Embossed for the Blind on Moon's Improved System.
Brighton [Eng.] Printed at W. Moon's Establishment for English and Foreign Books and Maps for the Blind, 1856.

Moon alphabet for the blind

After becoming blind in 1840, William Moon taught himself to read by the aid of the various embossed systems then in use, and became convince that none was really suited to the purpose. Aged persons experienced difficulty in reading by touch, and the complexities of stenographic systems made them hard to leard. Basing his efforts on the work of James Hatley Frere (1779-1866), Moon in 1847 brought out a system using only nine basic characters, placed in various positions to represent the letters of the alphabet. In many instances, it is still in use today along with that developed by Louis Braille (1809-1852) just thirteen years earlier. Many works, both sacred and secular, were brought out in embossed type using Moon's system during his lifetime. Epistles of Saint John was taken from a larger series of the complete New Testament. It appears to be a unique copy, prepared especially for Georg V (1819-1878), the last king of Hanover, who was blind.


ROCH AMBROISE CUCURRON SICARD (1742-1822)
Théorie des Signes pour l'Instruction des Sourds-Muets.
Paris, Imprimerie de l'Instruction des Sourds-Muets, 1808. 2 vols.

Originally director of the school for deaf-mutes at Bordeaux, the Abbé Sicard succeeded Charles Michel de L'Epée at Paris upon the latter's death in 1789. This is the first edition of Théorie des Signes, in which Sicard adopts and develops L'Epée's views on signs as the natural language of the deaf, giving the reader extensive descriptions of various signs used by the deaf for both concrete objects, abstract concepts, and grammatical relations. Appended to volume two is a short essay by Sicard on Jean Massieu, one of several pupils to whom the Abbé addressed question at public lectures, held in London, to demonstrate his methods over against the oral method of teaching speech then common in England. The Abbé Sicard's methods may also be examined in his Cours d'Instruction d'un Sourd-Muet de Naissance (Paris, 1800). (Bibliothéque Nationale CLXXII: 334; Guyot p. 14; Stojan 542)


See also: Deafness in Disguise, an exhibition at Washington University's Becker Medical Library, Department of Archives and Rare Books.

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