Free Exhibition: Touching the Book: Embossed Literature for Blind People in the Nineteenth Century

Free Exhibition: Touching the Book: Embossed Literature for Blind People in the Nineteenth Century

A new, free exhibition has opened in the Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck’s School of Arts, Central London. Touching the Book: Embossed Literature for Blind People in the Nineteenth Century is curated by Dr Heather Tilley, a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in Birkbeck’s Department of English and Humanities, and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) through their Sharing Heritage programme.

The exhibition explores the history of embossed reading and writing practices for blind and partially-sighted people prior to the adoption of braille in nineteenth-century Britain and Europe. It contains important examples of nineteenth-century embossed books, writing devices, journals, pamphlets and portraits from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), the Wellcome Library, and private collections.  This was a period in which a number of raised alphabets were invented and taught in blind schools and teaching societies throughout Europe, characterized either by their resemblance to the Roman alphabet and legible to the eye or their use of an arbitrary, symbolic code, such as braille.

The exhibition traces debates between those alphabets that were best-suited to the eye vs those best-suited to the finger and explores how nineteenth-century blind and partially sighted people, including Thomas Rhodes Armitage (a founding member of RNIB) and communities campaigned to have ownership of embossed writing systems. Visitors will also be able to access further information and share responses to the exhibition on the exhibition website: http://blogs.bbk.ac.uk/touchingthebook

Touching the Book: Embossed Literature for Blind People in the Nineteenth Century. Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD.

18 July to 30 October 2013. Please visit the exhibition website for more information on opening hours. The curator will deliver regular tours of the exhibition.

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