Throwback Thursday Object: Klein Pin Type--Another Method for Writing Tactile Letters

Johann Wilhelm Klein (1765-1848) founded the Blindeninstitut Wien (Vienna Institute for the Blind) in 1804.  We tend to focus on the inventions of the French—and they were significant! —but the Austrians and Germans made important early contributions to education for people who were blind too.  Around 1807 Klein developed pin-type, a portable device allowing the user to emboss capital letters of the Latin alphabet by piercing the paper with needles arranged on a block. With some difficulty, the method could be read both by touch and sight.  Eventually Klein pin-type boxes were also manufactured and used in other European countries and the U.S.  It is a flat wooden box, hinged on one side, a wooden grid in the base holds metal types, each with a raised letter on one end and a series of needles in the rough shape of the letter on the other.  A frame in the lid is hinged to lift up so a piece of paper can be inserted between the frame and a wool pad.  The frame keeps the lines of your type neat and straight.
This example came from the l'Institution des Jeunes Aveugles in Still, France.  That school was founded in 1895.  Although not marked, it is identical to a second example from that school which featured Blindeninstitut Wien markings.  The three accented vowels suggest it is a German language box.  French language sets include many more accented vowels.  The town of Still is located in the much fought-over region of Alsace-Lorraine, which was controlled by Germany between 1871 and 1918.  As with so many other writing tools, the invention of the typewriter made inventions like this obsolete.
Photo Captions: #1 Wooden case of pin type; #2 Detail of the alloy types, with raised letter on top, and needles on bottom.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind


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