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Reading for the Blind.


chanical pursuits, instructed him in his own trade, and he became so expert therein as to succeed his father in the business, and to carry it on with advantage to himself and the town in which he resided. But these higher and more difficult mechanical arts cannot profitably be made to occupy the blind in institutes established for their benefit, for persons in the trade would scarcely employ them. Instances have also been known of still greater advancement in tactile power. The family tailor of Macdonald of Clanronald was blind, yet the tartan dresses were well shaped and sewed. On one occasion he received orders to make his master's brother, who had lately returned from India, a suit of tartan within a given time, and proceeded to work without delay. It so happened that this gentleman passed at a late hour through the room where the blind tailor was at work, and hearing some low singing, he asked "Who's there?" to which the poor fellow replied, "It is I, working at your honour's hose." "How can you work without a candle?" said he, forgetting that Maguire was blind. "Oh, please your honour," rejoined the tailor, "midnight darkness is the same as noonday to me."

The olfactory nerves have often been highly developed. Man has not generally been so proficient in their use as his dogs, though to training the latter owe much of their quickness. The Peruvian Indians have been noted for their ability to tell by the sense of smell, in the dark, the different races surrounding them. But the blind have outstripped all in their education of this sense, To them smell is not merely an apparatus for detecting the presence of the various odours that regale, or that disgust. The scent of the air perfumed with honeysuckle and sweetbriar will serve them to guide their way, and the smell of a person becomes the means of recognition. The sense of taste has been with this class the means of increasing their knowledge; but this and the last-mentioned sense gather their knowledge very slowly, and hence have been less distinguished than some of the others. It may be remarked that the loss of sight has its advantages not less than its disadvantages in the education of the mind. The blind are able to give more undivided attention to any subject of thought, and to pursue without distraction problems of abstract science.

Art has contributed largely to enable the blind to surmount the loss of sight. Modes of education adapted to their condition have been devised by the ingenious and philanthropic, and institutions. have been established to afford them an asylum during the period of their instruction. One of the earliest systems was a modification of the Sclavonian alphabet, whose letters were of a square form. Another was by movable letters-a plan which enabled Ussher, the Archbishop of Armagh, to educate his two aunts, who were born blind. In the sixteenth century, letters were engrave

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for their use, but this required too delicate touch for general adoption. Pierre Moreau, in 1640, used movable characters cast in lead, but did not meet with encouragement. A simpler and more ingenious method than any of these consisted in forming letters by means of pins stuck into large pincushions, leaving out only the heads, which of course were easily felt, and rendered the shape of the letters quite distinct as well as palpable, while the arrangement could be altered at pleasure, and with extreme facility. By this natural and easy plan the celebrated Mademoiselle Paradis learned to read.' In 1783, the mode which has prevailed over every other was invented in France by Valentine Hauy, and consisted of letters raised or embossed on paper. It was taught in the succeeding year. Great discussions have taken place on the merits of the various embossed systems proposed for the purpose of teaching the blind to read. These controversies have greatly hindered the work of philanthropy, by dividing the benevolent into parties, and wasting means in separate systems of printing. The schemes are of two general classes, and have been styled the Alphabetical and the Arbitrary. The one retains the letters of the Roman alphabet, while the other uses characters which represent letters, words, and sounds. These two are subdivided into several branches. Of the alphabetical, the best system was invented by Mr. Alston, of Glasgow, a gentleman who interested himself greatly in the condition of the blind, and whose self-denying labours have made his memory fragrant in the ccmmercial capital of Scotland. It meets the wants of the case most fully, and works can be printed on less space and at less cost than by any other. The conditions necessary in a system of instruction for the blind are thus stated: 1. It must resemble as nearly as possible the type in ordinary use among those who had eyesight; (a) that the blind scholar learning to read may have every possible help from words which he may have formerly seen, but which now his fingers must decipher; (b) 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 spelled in full, that when he learns to write, he may do so in a correct manner which others can read. 3. The raised characters must be clear, sharp, and well defined, which the finger hardened by long work, and the keen, soft touch of a little child may be alike able to discern.'† Alston's system satisfies these conditions. Besides this, there are others possessing many advantages, such as the American-on the plan of Alston-the French, and Alston's modified.

See Encyclopædia Britannica,' Art. Blind. † Johnson's Tangible Typography.'


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The arbitrary systems are various. Lucas's consists of stenographic characters larger than the whole words in the alphabetic. Frere's is more phonetic, and contains twenty-nine symbols. Moon's invention is ingenions. Each letter of the alphabet is formed of two lines only, most of the letters bearing a partial resemblance to those in ordinary use. Nine forms placed in different positions represent the whole alphabet and numerals; one form serving for A, V, K, L, and x, and another for E, L, M, and Y, while there are four contracted forms, ment, ing, tion, and ness.' The advocates of this system have been loud in its praise, and Dr. Bull asserts that it is best suited to the blind. He at least failed with Frere's and Lucas's, and even in the Roman letter; but he mastered Moon's system in one lesson. Hence he became zealous for the common use of Mr. Moon's plan. He also mentions, among many others, a case of a gentleman who had failed during the occasional efforts of nineteen years to acquire other systems, learning Moon's in two or three days. The majority of the blind who have learnt to read have hitherto done so by the alphabetical system; but it may be improved so as to combine some advantages of the others. A very great objection against the arbitrary and stenographic systems is, the necessity to teach writing by the Roman character. The Rev. B. G. Johns, Chaplain of the Blind School, Southwark, states that the Roman letter is as easily learned as Moon's system,' and that the adoption of any arbitrary system will do much to cut them [the blind] off still more from communion with their fellow-men, and render their isolation more complete.' The following table will show how the different systems can be carried out in the printing of the New Testament.

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The Rev. W. Taylor, of York, says: No alphabet seems to possess so many advantages as the Roman alphabet.' Mr. Hughes, the Governor of the Blind School at Manchester, says: 'I would discourage all systems of embossing which could not be read or taught by seeing persons.'

Moon's system has, however, been gaining ground rapidly within the last few years. The societies which have been established for teaching the blind at their own homes-one of the most beneficent modes of conferring the inestimable advantage


of reading upon this class of persons-have generally adopted Moon's system. Their testimony is, that their pupils, many of whom are adults, have acquired this system with considerable ease. The following extracts from the Report of the Society for 1859 show their successes.

'An old soldier, who lost his sight forty years go aat Gibraltar, and is now seventy years of age, learnt to read in two lessons.'

"The oldest pupil who has learnt to read this year is a widow, seventy-seven years of age, who accomplished this task in about a month. Another very aged pupil is an old sailor, seventy-five years of age, twenty-five of which have been spent in darkness. He had formerly tried another system, and could not feel the letters at all; but he learnt in two or three lessons by Moon's easy system, and can now read the word of God for himself.'

The Edinburgh Society bears a similar testimony:

"The result of these efforts has been in the highest degree satisfactory. If there was a doubt in the minds of some persons as to the superiority of Moon's system for adults over all others, it has now been dispelled. Not only have many of the inmates of the Edinburgh Blind Asylum learnt to prefer Moon's type to every other, but forty blind persons in the city have also acquired the power of reading by it. While much success has followed the introduction of Moon's system into the Edinburgh Asylum, that of Aberdeen has also welcomed it cordially.'

The Liverpool Society report that Moon's system has been selected, because experience has proved it to be the most simple and most easily learned. For those who could read before losing their sight, the work is accomplished in two or three, or even sometimes in one lesson, little more being requisite in these cases than learning the alphabet.'

The Cheltenham Society has been labouring with very great zeal and considerable success. Ten ladies and one gentleman act as teachers, and there are twenty-five blind persons under tuition, whose ages vary from seven to seventy-eight. These are taught to read the Scriptures, to write and cipher, and such mechanical arts as may enable them to earn their own livelihood. They are paid for their work at once, and the articles are afterwards exposed for sale. The following is an extract from the Report for 1860:

The principal objects that recommend this society to notice and support are, the thrift and economy strictly observed; it employs no paid officers; it makes no charge for rent; its expenses are trifling; its chief, almost its only expense, is for materials and printing. Its friends are its instructors as well as its supporters: their work is done voluntarily and cheerfully, and their highest reward, which is their only one, is the hope of doing good. What the society now requires is friends-friends to contribute, friends to teach. With a few friends and small funds it has done some good; with new friends, and larger_funds, it hopes to do more. Yet, without anything to boast of, much has been done to be


The Illustrious Blind-Poets.

thankful for. Not a few have been rescued in part from destitution and depend ence, have been reclaimed from idleness and waste of time, have been raised in the scale of usefulness, and been made to feel they are no longer a burden to society, mere cumberers of the ground. Some are able in part to gain a livelihood, more have been taught to read the Word of God; and some, it is humbly hoped, by God's grace and blessing, are enabled from the heart to say for themselves, "Whereas I was blind, now I see.'

The same plan has been extending over all the towns of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and efforts are being made to convey its blessings to the blind throughout the world. These are most important testimonies to the advantages of Mr. Moon's system for adults, and to the success of the societies for teaching the blind at home. We are also told that, out of seventy-one who accomplished learning to read in the first year, twenty of them, including two above seventy years of age, could read at their second or third lesson.'

We hail with pleasure this Home Teaching Society. Its efforts can be performed with great economy, and they confer a lasting blessing on the objects of their solicitude. It is deeply to be regretted that books on Mr. Moon's system cost so much. It prevents the poor blind from getting a library, when the New Testament costs four pounds ten shillings. We trust that this may soon be obviated, and that a literature for the blind may be provided sufficient to guide their minds, not only to the knowledge that is saving, but to other acquirements of learning. There is a 'Society for Printing and Distributing Books for the use of the Blind,' whose labours may do much in this way, especially when the duty is taken off paper.

The blind are taught to write by an apparatus of great simplicity. A ciphering frame has also been devised for them. Geography is taught by means of globes and boards made expressly for them; astronomy, by an orrery and celestial maps, and mathematics by analogous arrangements. Music is acquired with considerable ease, and so are many of the mechanical arts. In almost all institutes for the blind these arts are cultivated to a very great extent-basket-work and matting, making flowerscreens, shoes, coloured rugs (the colours being laid in a certain order to the hand), and knitted fancy-work; weaving and spinning. In the Exhibition of 1851 a large stand was filled entirely with their work. In most of the large towns throughout this country, institutions exist and are supported by the charitable, solely for the blind; but the number educated is small compared with the cost.

It now remains that we notice a few of those who, notwithstanding their lost sense, and in most cases ignorant of the alphabet for the blind, have risen to eminence. The number is greater than we can describe within the limited space at our disposal. But it includes poets, historians, musicians, men of science,


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