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Reading and Writing: Boston Line Type.
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In the year before Perkins opened its doors to students in the autumn of 1832, Samuel Gridley Howe scoured North America and Europe to create a small library for his students. However, he did not find as many books as he had hoped for, so Howe decided to create them himself.

Within a few years, Howe developed his own embossed alphabet called Boston Line Type. The new tactile writing system was compact and had few confusing flourishes, unlike others in use. Next he hired a printer, Stephen Preston Ruggles, to design a press that could produce books in Boston Line Type. In 1835 Howe printed his first Boston Line Type book called Acts of the Apostles, which was soon followed by The Blind Child?s Book, a reading textbook compiled by Howe.

Even though the official reading system at Perkins was Boston Line Type, many of the school?s students found it difficult to read, and without expensive and cumbersome equipment, it was impossible to use as a writing system. The raised dot braille alphabet was more compact and gave users the freedom to both read and write using simple and expensive tools, but American educators opposed any system that required sighted teachers to learn a set of arbitrary symbols. As a result, there was no standardized alphabet for English-speaking blind readers. Many students, including Helen Keller, had to learn several different reading and writing systems.

Perkins students embraced the braille system for letter writing and note taking, but Boston Line Type remained the official printing system at Perkins until 1908. Even today, despite all the efforts of the Uniform Type Committee, there is no one single for all English speaking readers who are blind.

Suggested citation for scholars:

McGinnity, B.L., Seymour-Ford, J. and Andries, K.J. (2004) Boston Line Type. Perkins History Museum, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA.

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