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Modifications of the two great classes of Systems may be thus subdivided :-Alphabetical.*
Arbitrary. 1. Alston's system.
1. Lucas's system. 2. The American.
2. Frere's system. 3. French alphabetical.
3. Moon's. 4. Alston modified.
4. Le Système Braille.
5. Le Système Carton. Of the alphabetical systems Alston's is the chief and best. After long experience,' writes the adapter, Mr. Alston of Glasgow, 'I am convinced that arbitrary characters, however
ingeniously constructed, throw unnecessary obstacles in the way
of the blind.' He therefore chose the ordinary Roman capital letters, as being at once the simplest, and most easily felt, -- the most likely to be remembered by any blind scholar who had once enjoyed sight; in which, too, any one with sight, able to read ordinary type, could with ease instruct those deprived of the use of their eyes. The importance of this latter advantage cannot, we imagine, be over-estimated; and we are bound to admit that Mr. Alston's choice of the Roman letters is, on the whole, a wise one. At p. 35-36. of Mr. Johnson's valuable little work, we find the following reasons why Alston's, as now in use, or slightly modified, is the system best suited for general adoption:
• The blind already form a peculiar and distinct class of people, and it is most desirable on every account not to render them more isolated or peculiar, but rather to make them, as far as may be, one in advantages, duties, and enjoyments with their fellow-men. The
* One most curious and ingenious system of writing and reading is that of a knotted string, invented some years since by two blind men then in the Edinburgh School. We have but space to note that the letters are on this system divided into seven classes, each class and each letter being represented by a knot or knots of a peculiar kind, easily distinguished by the touch. The system is obviously more curious than useful. It would be an interesting task to compare it with the 'Quipos,' or knotted records anciently kept by the Peruvians, before the era of Spanish discovery.
In the system of raised characters first adopted for the use of the blind, the Illyrian or Sclavonian alphabet was employed, probably on account of the square form of the letters, for this reason more easily detected. These soon gave way to solid letters (Roman) of wood which were made to slide into a frame.
Archbishop Usher tells us of his being thus taught to read by two blind aunts.
system of embossed printing for their use, therefore, should embrace at least the following features :
*1. It must resemble as nearly as possible the type in ordinary use among those who have eye-sight; ..
• (a) that the blind scholar, in learning to read, may have every possible help from words which he may have formerly seen, but which now his fingers must decipher:
(6) that he may derive help in learning from any one who can read an ordinary book; or, if needful, that his friend may be able to read to him.
* 2. It must present the words correctly spelt in full, that when he learns to write, he may do so in a correct manner which others can read.
63. The raised characters must be clear, sharp, and well-defined, which the finger, hardened by long work, and the keen soft touch of the little child, may be alike able to discern.
· The only system which can ever offer such advantages as these must clearly be some modification of Alston's system, or the lowercase type.' (P. 36.)
To the same effect speaks the Rev. W. Taylor of York, probably one of the highest authorities on all points connected with the blind. “No alphabet,' he says, seeming to possess so many • advantages as the Roman alphabet.' “I would discourage all
systems of embossing,' says Mr. Hughes, the Governor of the Blind School at Manchester, which could not be read and taught
by seeing persons.' And to a like purport writes Mr. Morris, the Superintendent of the Blind School at York.
The American books are all printed on a modification of Alston's system, and are a strong testimony on its behalf; while the words of the famous Abbé Carton speak in its favour still more strongly. The Abbé is the Governor of L’Institution
des Sourds-muets, et des Aveugles,' at Bruges, and having devoted a long life to the study of the blind, must be admitted as a valuable authority. He thus writes:- En effet, si un ' caractère, connu des clairvoyants, est employé dans l'impression en relief pour les aveugles, ces infortunés sont plus rap
prochés des autres hommes que s'ils se servaient d'un caractère • inconnu de ceux qui les entourent; quoiqu'on en dise, il nous en coûte d'apprendre un nouvel alphabet pour l'enseigner à des enfants, et cette difficulté rebutera plusieurs personnes qui, sans cela, se seraient occupées de cet enseignement. Diminuer la difficulté qu'auraient les clairyoyants à connaître l'alphabet des 'aveugles, est réellement travailler en faveur des aveugles. Le
plus grand nombre d'aveugles se trouve parmi la classe pauvre, • et le plus grand malheur des aveugles est leur isolement; tous nos efforts doivent tendre à les rapprocher de nous, et à rendre leur instruction aussi semblable à la nôtre qu'il est possible, et à commencer cette instruction aussi vite que l'on peut.'
One would imagine that such testimony as this was sufficient to decide any question the settlement of which depended on common sense and reason. But, strange to say, such is far from being the case. It is not even yet decided that one of the alphabetical systems shall be adopted. It appears indeed settled that the blind, as a class, shall be educated, and, as a first step, shall be taught to read. But eager and unwearied partisans are disputing on the very threshold of the work how the blind shall be taught, -'Whether,' says Tangible Typography, .by Brown's infallible stenographic, Smith's unrivalled . abbreviations, Jones's unsurpassed contractions, Robinson's easy * symbols, or any other of the numerous perfect systems which,
unfortunately for the blind, have been lately invented. And meanwhile, the work for which all are striving is greatly impeded. The strength and success which unity of purpose and of action alone can give, are wanting; and the education of the blind is impeded.
The American Books are all printed on a modification of Alston's plan, and, as a whole, may be regarded as successful, being smaller in bulk and cheaper in cost than those published in England. The type adopted is clear and sharp, being a slight modification of what printers call lower-case. Further notice it scarcely needs from us, as the books are not to be procured in England.
The books printed by M. Dufau*, at the great Institution for the Blind at Paris, before the employment of an arbitrary system of dots, were rounded lower-case letters with Roman capitals, and, in the Jurors' Report of the May Exhibition, are highly spoken of. But that type has been abandoned, and an arbitrary one of raised dots adopted in its place, apparently without cause, and with little success.
Lucas's System professes to do for the blind reader what shorthand would do for one who, ignorant of the ordinary alphabet,
* M. Dufau is the author of a most valuable work on the blind, entitled ' Des Aveugles. Considérations sur leur état physique, moral * et intellectuel,' which, we regret to say, has reached us only too late to be of service while writing the following pages. A few brief notes is all that it now lies in our power to give by way of extract. His work is dedicated to the Crown Prince of Hanover, who is totally blind.
should attempt a stenographic one. (The case of an ordinary short-hand writer who can read and write in the manner of ordinary mortals is not an analogous one.) We are, however, surprised to find that short-hand for the blind, contrary to all other stenographic systems, is no saver of space. The New Testament, printed in the American type, occupies 430 pages, in Alston's system, 623, in Lucas's, 841. Whatever, therefore, Lucas omits, his omissions serve to increase the bulk of his productions. “Minuendo auget,' would be a good Lucasian motto.
'All letters,' says Lucas, 'not necessary to the sound are 'omitted; as da for day, mit for might, no for know,' &c. Now, allowing the first of these omissions to pass muster, it does not seem to have struck the Lucasian brain that mit spells mit quite as much as might, unless he abolish all mittens, mittimuses, and mitigations by stenographic decree. For our own part, we become tenderly anxious to know the transmutation and ultimate fate of our old friends lit and light, spit and spite, wit and wight, sit and sight, bight and bit, fight and fit, and many others equally dear. Do they obtain, as they seem to require, separate legislation for each of their peculiar necessities? Or, if not, what law can equally apply to cases so widely differing ? Who is the presiding Master in Chancery for the nonce, — the blind disciple, or his quick-sighted stenographic teacher ? No may certainly stand for know, and eir for heir ; but what shall we say of Rule 2.:- When the sound of a word is decidedly different from the spelling, the spelling is altered, as shurly for surely, sed for said, laf for laugh, brawt for brought? Allowing a Lucasian to laf instead of laugh, it seems a strange and unwise plan to teach a child an incorrect way of spelling some thousands (at least) of words in the English language, simply because he is afflicted with blindness. It is, in fact, saying to him, - now, if by perseverance you ever master stenography and survive Lucas, you shall also, if you attempt caligraphy, learn to write in a barbarous dialect which your friends who can see can neither understand nor decipher.
Of course, if surely becomes shurly, and surety shurty, sugar ought to be metamorphosed into shugar. Final ees are ignominiously cut off, as giv, gav, fac. Some words are expressed by a single character. Thus 9 stands for queen and question, y for yet and yesterday, m for me, or my mother, v for verily and vanity, P. H. for six or Pharisee or sixth, and so on ad infinitum, until one expects to find at the end of the list, L for Lucas, lamentable, and labyrinth. Let us construct a short sentence in
Lucasian dialect *, with its various readings in full, for the
save me with (we) patience(up). Interpretations la Have
2. Have - yesterday - mother world upon. or Readings. Jo
s. Hither ye - amongst word(will) put. No horn-book ever yet devised contained such horrors as these, and the bitterness of Mavor, though greater than that of aloes, never, we fancy, appeared so terrible as a dose of Lucas would have done if it had dawned on our juvenile eyes in Lesson 6. of words of three syllables. Four other Tables of Rules and Directions follow the above, as an Introduction to an alphabet of a purely arbitrary character, and even to a person of sharp eyesight as hopelessly undecipherable as a wedge inscription from the banks of the Tigris. For some centuries past most civilised nations have been content to use the old Roman letter, with slight, if any, modifications. The difficulties of that system have been considered sufficient for the distraction of young Europe in general. It remained for the advocates of stenography for the blind to contrive for their especial behoof a system more complicated, elaborate, and full of difficulty than mortals of ordinary vision can understand or decipher without much juvenile suffer
But in spite of these difficulties, many blind persons have learned to read by this system ; a fact not so difficult to understand when it is noted that the society who print these books at their own cost, have also expended much time and labour in teaching pupils to read them. With time, talent, and perseverance, an earnest teacher may instruct a willing scholar on any given system, however elaborate or however faulty. Whether with a far less expenditure of time and labour the same pupils would not have learned to read by a common alphabetical system, is a totally different question. It is sufficient here to say that the
* The first verse of St. John's Gospel translated from Lucas into ordinary letters stands thus, and is sufficiently puzzling to a reader with eyes :
in. t. bgini. ws. t. wrd. a. t. w. ws. w. g. a. t. w. ws. g. In reading, the blind scholar applies his touch most keenly to the tops of the letters, -and this part of the raised surface is generally found to be depressed or rubbed away sooner then any other, affording another argument against stenographic systems. For, although when the upper part of a Roman letter, as P, M, or A, be rubbed away, it may still be deciphered, a short-hand symbol in a like state of dilapidation is a hopeless puzzle.