Throwback Thursday: List of Books in Embossed Type

Our object this week is a humble little booklet published by the Library of Congress in 1918, but it gets at a subject I want to talk in more depth, the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the Revised American Braille Code in June 1918 (or at it was also known, Braille Grade One and a Half).  For readers who were blind or visually impaired back then, a trip to the library was like a walk through the Old West:  it was an adventure.  There were books in raised letters, books in New York Point, books in Modified American Braille, books in Moon Type, and books embossed in British Braille or even a few in a short-lived code called Standard Dot.  The Americans had been negotiating with the British since around 1905 to come up with a unified English code, but by 1917, those negotiations had bogged down and America decided to go it alone, adopting the lightly contracted Grade 1.5 over the heavily contracted British Braille Grade II.  But the 1918 catalog of books in the Room for the Blind at the LC demonstrates how much worked needed to be done to introduce the new code after decades of disunity.  There are twenty-two pages of entries for Modified American Braille, the code adapted in 1868 at the Perkins School, which used Braille’s six dot symbol but reassigned the values.  There are nineteen pages of entries for British Braille.  There is a single page of works in the new Revised American Braille, covering only nine titles(!)  There are ten pages of entries in Moon Type, the raised letter code invented by William Moon in 1845.  There thirty-one pages of entries in New York Type, the braille alternative developed by William Wait in 1868.  And finally there are seven pages of entries for raised letters. But things were about to change…

Caption:  (Light blue booklet titled “List of Books in Embossed Type.”)

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