News & Notes

Dr. Moon’s Alphabet for the Blind

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Dr. Moon's Alphabet for the Blind

When most people think of printing for the blind, Braille is the first thing that comes to mind. Few are aware that another system was developed almost at the same time.

In 1845, William Moon, a young man who had lost his sight after being stricken with scarlet fever, developed a system of embossed (raised) printing that would make it possible for the blind to read with their fingers. In comparison to the French inventor Louis Braille’s system, Moon’s letters (which were based on Roman letterforms) were easier for individuals who had not been born blind to learn to read. Thanks to the financial support of his blind patron, Sir Charles Lowther, Dr. Moon’s name soon became known around the world. A complete English Bible, in sixty volumes, was produced, as well as other materials in over 400 languages. When the Duchess of Gloucester, daughter of the late King George III, visited Moon’s home, she supposedly wept — her father, a dedicated reader, had spent the last years of his life in misery, partly due to blindness. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Moon also pioneered the production of maps for the blind, such as the one of the British Isles seen here.

Apart from Braille, the Moon alphabet is the only system of writing for the blind that is still taught today.

LSU Special Collections recently acquired a copy of In Memoriam, a privately printed book published in 1873 by William Moon’s wife, Anna Maria Moon. The volume contains memorials to several members of her family as well as three specimens of Moon printing, including one with a portion of the Lord’s Prayer in twelve different languages.

— Michael Taylor, Assistant Curator of Books

Michael Taylor is Curator of Books, LSU Libraries’ Special Collections

Posted in Special Collections Tagged with: ,
2 comments on “Dr. Moon’s Alphabet for the Blind
  1. Frank Callery says:

    Dear Michael,
    I came upon your page relating to the acquisition of Anna Maria Moon’s In Memoriam. I am currently researching a History of the Blind of Ireland and in this connection I wish to write a chapter on Library Services for the blind. This will be a Non-profit publication for the National Council for the Blind of Ireland and will appear in ink-print, Braille, and Audio formats. I would like to illustrate the relevant chapter with pertinent images and I was wondering if it would be possible to acquire a high resolution (300dpi I am told) version of the image of Moon’s Alphabet and the Map of the British Isles depicted on your page. The reproduction size will be approx. 18cmx18cm. We will of course give credit and cite as you require. I can let you have a .pdf copy of the relevant chapter prior to publication. Yours sincerely, Frank Callery, Publications editor, National Council for the Blind of Ireland. (NCBI),
    The Sticks,
    Piltown (via Carrick-on-Suir)
    Co. Kilkenny,
    Tel 35351 648296.

  2. i came across this page whilst looking for some help on moon, as 2 years ago i had my beautiful daughter and whilst pregnant i contracted german measals, and my daughter now is a deaf blind child, i wanted some help on how i can progress her reading and writing more due to her being a very clever little girl and very insightive! i found your information very useful, and further the information that i have received, my little girl is moving along amazingly and she now can read her name and point to her self and read mummy and touch my hand and no that its my name! i am a very proud mum!

    thank you once again.

    from a proud mummy.


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