René Just Haüy.

An essay on the education of the blind; (Dedicated to the King of France), Paris, 1786 online

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for its reality to the example of the blind person at Puiseaux (/).
We appeal to you, in short, ye tender and respectable parents,
born to a liberal share of fortune's favours, whose son is just
entered into the world, but shall never see the light of heaven ;
what a sensible satisfaction it is to us to find ourselves in a
capacity to alleviate the transports of your grief ! Yes, our plan
of education bids fair on one hand to restore to your son, already
tenderly loved, the dearest prerogative of intellectual existence ;
on the other to furnish you with the means of gratifying those
desires with which your taste for learning and genius inspires
you, to procure him an education worthy of a child born in a
distinguished rank. And you men of learning, who enlighten

(e) According to the proposal made in advertisements, annunciations and various
intimations on the 3rd of December, 1T86, page 3204, in the first article of demands, on the
6th of the same month we caused one of our blind to begin teaching a child who saw, to
read. During the lessons, the master had beneath his fingers a white book printed in
relievo for the blind, whilst the other had under his eyes the same edition in black. This
child gave, for the first time, proofs of his advancement in the exercises performed by the
blind at Versailles, during the Christmas holidays in the same year.

(/) 1 his blind person, as we have said before, Note (a), p. 12, gave to his son lessons
in reading.


us by your exertion of corporeal sight, if the fatigues of unre-
mitted labour for our instruction should one day extinguish that
organ, permit us at that unhappy crisis to offer you the means at
once of continuing the benefit of your lessons to us, and to you
the enjoyment of an advantage of which they are in some
measure the agreeable fruits. Homer, Belisarius, and Milton,
afflicted with blindness, would with pleasure have consecrated to
the service of their country those years of their lives which
followed that catastrophe.


Of the Art of Printing, as practised ly the Blind for their

peculiar Use.

THE analogy which the manner of reading adapted to the blind
has with their method of printing, having reduced us to the
necessity of giving by anticipation, in detail, some circumstances
which relate to the origin of their art of printing, it remains for
us to explain the principal operations of that art, as adapted to
their practice. It will be much the same case with respect to
the mechanical operations of printing among the blind as with
those who see. It is doubtless impossible for every individual to
have an exclusive possession of it (g). The necessity of habitually
knowing and practising the different branches of that art, the
multiplicity and high price of the utensils requisite for its exe-
cution, the civil privileges with which its professors must be
endued, all these conspiring obstacles limit its pursuit to a society
of the blind, solely formed and intended for its practice. It is in
our academy for their education where we hope to constitute the
chief place (if we may use the expression), from whence will issue
such typographical productions, for instance, as are proper for
the use of all the blind who, in their misfortune, shall have the

(0) One knows how easy it is to abuse printing in all respects ; and not satisfied with
tbe rectitude of our intentions, and the indulgence with which people hare honoured our
infant printing, the productions of which bear acharacter of originality easily distinguish-
able, we have formed to ourselves an inviolable rule not to suffer anything printed to issue
from us without the sanction of M. Clousier, printer to the King, and which has not been
executed under his eyes, or those of some person commissioned by him.


sweet consolation of being born within the dominions of our
Monarch (Ji). Let us proceed to the manner in which our blind
pupils perform their typographical labours. We have given to
their cases the order of the alphabet, so as to preserve, immedi-
ately under their hands, the characters which they shall have
most frequent occasion to use. We preferred that distribution
under the apprehension that the blind would be less clever than
we have really found them. It is upon the same principle that
we make them set their types in a case lined with a copper
bottom, and pierced with several lines of small holes, from
whence, by the assistance of a pointed instrument, they bring out
the types which are to be changed. It is upon the same prin-
ciple that we cause to be adjusted, in the inside of these cases,
iron rulers (moveable by means of their screws), one at the side
and the other at the bottom of the page, to keep the lines in it
regular. It is, in short, upon the same principle that we raise
these cases horizontally in longitude upon four feet, of which the
two that support the upper end of the page are one-half lower
than those upon which the under end rests ; so that without
making use of a composing stick the blind compositor may place
the words at proper distances, and that they may not be inverted
whilst he is composing the remainder of the page.

The way in which the typographical characters of the blind
present themselves naturally indicates that the arrangement ought
to be made from left to right, as we have observed chap. 3d. And
in order to make reading easy to the blind, at least in the first
periods of their education, it may prove a happy expedient to
leave spaces between the words, and even sometimes between the
letters. It is easy to see that when one prints in relievo he
cannot print on the other side without being in danger of
destroying the former impression, by tracing which with their
finger only the blind can read. Likewise, for preserving the pages
in the same order that they have in books for the use of those
who see, the blind are obliged to paste together, back to back, by

(K) Till establishments similar to ours be formed in other nations, it will be a pleasure
to us to cause to be printed in relievo, and in other languages, by our blind pupils, books
destined for the use of strangers who are deprived of sight.


their extremities, the four pages of a sheet coming from the
press ; and then the arrangement of the cases is made in an order
different from that of persons who see. Thus the leaves being
pasted, they form them into books, by simply stitching and
covering them with pasteboard without beating them.

The office of the ordinary printing-press is easily done, by help
of a cylindrical press, which is moved by a lever from one
extremity to the other, along two bars of iron, between which
are placed the forms, or pages that are set, after the manner of
printers (z).

We may employ with success the same process for printing in
relievo for the use of the blind, musical characters, geographical
maps, the principal strokes of designing, and, in general, of all
the figures of which the knowledge may be obtained by means of
touch. It is upon account of these last objects, above all, that
we hope the admirable discovery of M. M. Hoffman will be
precious to the blind ; we share by anticipation their sentiments
of gratitude towards those estimable artists (&).

To the press of which we have spoken a little above we have
thought it proper to add a kind of tympanum, by the assistance
of which the blind may, at their pleasure, tinge with black, copies
of an edition perfectly similar to those which they print on white
paper for their own private use.

This procedure, which is equally applicable to music, to geo-
graphical maps, or to designs, &c., puts the blind artist in a
capacity not only of giving an account to himself of all the
productions which he wishes to convey to those who see, but
likewise easily to direct their studies by the similarity of copies,
on the supposition of his being employed to give them lessons.

(i) This press is the invention of Sieur Heaucher, chief lock-smith. It has amply and
successfully accomplished our wishes, as to the facility with which it is managed without
any great effort by a blind child, and by which it admits the mechanism which we have
adapted to it. We believe, however, that a perpendicular pressure given to the whole leaf
at the same instant, will leave behind it a more solid impression ; we hope to find this in
a press ot another kind, which the Sieur Beaucher has described to us.

(fc) Although in pages 8 and 14 of this work we have not repeated the names of some of
the distinguished printers whom we have heard celebrated, we cannot forbear to confess
that according to our manner of thinking, there are many others who appear to us to
exercise their employment with i-clat. We even perceive, in those who compose the body
of this society, a general emulation. And obliged, by the nature of our institution, to serve
a kind of apprenticeship to this art, we would quote with pleasure a considerable number



On the Art of Printing, as practised ~by the Blind for the Use
of those who See.

IF we have been happy enough to discover the means of render-
ing printing useful to the blind for their own use ; if it is to us
that they owe the advantage of henceforth possessing libraries,
and of taking from books formed on purpose for themselves,
notions of letters, of languages, of history, of geography, of
mathematics, of music, &c. ; we are not the first who dared to
try to make them impress their ideas upon paper by help of typo-
graphical characters. "We have seen in the hands of Mademoiselle
Paradis (/) a letter printed by her in the character called Pica,
and in the German language, full of sentiments the most delicate,
as well as the best expressed. This attempt gave birth in my
mind to the idea of applying the blind to the art of printing for
the use of those who see ; it has succeeded with us in every kind of
work, whether with large or common types, as one may judge by
the different specimens which they have exhibited, and which are
to be found at the end of this work, if they can possibly be

After our manner of proceeding, the blind, formed according
to our institution, compose a typographical plate in imitation of
these models, with so much more ease as they are almost con-
tinually of the same form ; it suffices to write for them the
subject with a pen of iron, of which the top is not split, or with
the handle of a penknife as we have shewn above in the 3d

After having exercised the blind upon the different branches of
the art of printing in the manner of those who see, there are

of well-known productions from different presses which leave no further improvement to
be wished ; as well for the neatness of the characters, as for the choice of paper, and which
have served us as models in the study of printing which we had to go through. Besides,
far from erecting ourselves as judges in opposition to persons who cultivate the arts and
sciences, whether from situation or taste, we praise even attempts that have not been
crowned with success. See Translation published with " Blacklock's Poems."

(Z) This production was executed by the assistance of a little press, which M. de
Kempellan, the inventor of the automatic chess-player, had formed for her.


found few kinds in which they have not succeeded. We have
seen them successively compose, adjust, impress, moisten the
paper, touch it, print, &c., &c. (m). We appeal, besides, to com-
petent judges in that affair, and we refer our reader to the report
of M. M., the printers, which agrees with that of the Academy of


Of Writing.

THE example of Bernouilli, who had taught a young blind girl to
write, and that of M. Weissenbourg, who, deprived of sight from
seven years of age, has procured for himself the advantages of
fixing also his ideas upon paper by writing, have encouraged us to
try the means of putting the pen into the hands of our pupils.
But always occupied in our real point of view, that is to say, in
rendering our institution in every respect useful to those indi-
viduals who were its objects, we have thought that it could not
but be curious to cause the blind to write, if they could arrive at
reading their own hand ; this is what engaged us in causing to
be made for their use a pen of iron, the top of which was not
split, and with which writing without ink, and supported with a
strong paper, they produce upon it a character in relievo which
they can afterwards read, in passing their fingers along the
elevated lines on the back of the page. This elevation, however
slight it may appear, is always sufficient, especially if care is taken
to place below the paper upon which the blind write a soft and
yielding surface, such as several leaves of waste paper, of paste-
board, or of leather. With respect to the proper mechanism of
teaching the art of writing to those who are born blind, it is by
no means difficult to be executed ; you have only to teach your

(m) If there is any operation among the blind which requires to be directed by those
who see, it is printing for the use of these last we acknowledge. This speculation has been
often repeated to us upon other different branches of our institution. But have not clear-
sighted persons who labour at the press themselves need of a guide to whose skill they are
obliged to pay deference? And in the other states of life do we not see persons more
enlightened, directing those who are less, whilst those are in a situation to conduct people
less experienced than they? 'Tis thus that, in the day of battle, the general of an army
gives orders, the intention of which his subaltern officers are ignorant. It is thus that
the pilot conducts to the end of their voyage the learned academicians, who are unskilled
in the art of navigation.


pupil to trace, with a pointed instrument, the characters ranged
in form of lines. But instead of directing the process of this
pointed instrument by means of characters in relievo, as
M. Weissenbourg has done, it is better to conduct it by letters
graven hollow on some plate of metal. We have besides this
precaution taken that of giving our printed letters the form of
written, in order early to accustom the blind pupil to catch the
resemblance. At last, when he has acquired the habit of dis-
tinguishing their forms, there remains nothing more for him to
write straight but to place upon his paper a frame internally
furnished with small rising lines, parallel to the direction of the
writing, and distant from one another about nine-tenths of an
inch. These parallel lines serve to direct his hand, whilst he
transports it from left to right, in order to trace the characters.

Of Arithmetic.

WE have admired the ingenious tables of Saunderson (ti) and
those of M. Weissenbourg (0) ; the reason why we have adopted
neither of these methods was from another view, viz., that we
might preserve, without interruption, the strictest analogy pos-
sible between the means of educating the blind and those who
see, we have thought that the manner of these last ought to be
preferred. Likewise, when our pupils calculate, one may follow
their operations step by step.

We have caused to be made for them to this end, a board
pierced with different lines of square holes, proper for receiving
moveable figures and bars for separating the different parts of an

(TJ) The arithmetical table of Saunderson was formed of a board divided into small
squares placed horizontally and separated one from the other at equal distances ; each
little square was pierced with nine holes, viz., one on the midst of each side. It was by
the different positions of the pegs uniformly placed in different holes that Saunderson
could express any kind of number.

(o) We have seen, in the hands of Mile. Paradis, arithmetical tables which we believe
to have been those of M. Weissenbourg. But without a particular study, one cannot follow
the operations which are performed by the help of these tables. We do not know if our
pupil could operate with equal swiftness and certainty by these means as he could by those
of persons who see, and we have no other merit but that of rendering them palpable to him.


We have added, to render this board more useful, a case
composed of four rows of little boxes, containing all the figures
proper for calculation, and which are placed at the right hand of
the blind person while he operates. The only difficulty which
occurred was to represent all the possible fractions without
multiplying the characters which express them. We have thought
of causing to be cast 10 simple denominators in the order of the
figures 0, 1, 2, &c., even to 9 inclusively ; and likewise 10 simple
numerators in the same order, moveable in order to be adapted at
the head of the denominators. By means of this combination,
there is not a fraction which our pupils cannot express.

One may see from what has been said, that our method has a
double advantage.

1. A father of a family, or a tutor, can easily direct a blind
child in the study of arithmetic.

2. This blind child, when once instructed, may also conduct, in
his turn, the arithmetical operations performed by a child who sees.

The blind have, besides, so great a propensity for calculation that
we have often seen them following an arithmetical process and
correcting its errors by memory alone.


Of Geography.

WE owe to Madame Paradis the knowledge of geographical maps
for the use of the blind. She herself had it from M. Weissenbourg ;
but we are astonished that neither the one nor the other has carried
to a higher degree of perfection, the utensils which contribute to
the study of that science.

They mark the circumference of countries by a tenacious and
viscid matter, covering the different parts of their maps with a kind
of sand mixed with glass, in various manners, and distinguish the
order of towns by grains of glass of a greater or lesser size.

We are satisfied with marking the limits in our maps for the
use of the blind, by small iron wire rounded ; and it is always a
difference either in the form or size of every part of a map, which
assists our pupils in distinguishing the one from the other.


These means we have chosen in preference, on account of the
ease which they afford us of multiplying, by the assistance of the
press, the copies of our original maps for the use of the blind. It
will, besides, be more apt than any other to offer itself to the
execution of details the most delicate which can affect the touch
of these individuals ; and the first of our pupils have brought
themselves to such admirable perfection in the use of geographical
maps, that people see them with surprise, at our exhibitions,
distinguish a kingdom, a province, an island, the impression of
which is presented to them, independent of other parts of a map,
upon a square piece of paper.


Of Music.

IN tracing the plan of the education of the blind, we have at
first looked upon music only as an appendage fit for relaxing them
after their labour. But the natural propensity in the greatest
number of the blind for this art ; the resources which it can
furnish to several among them for their sustenance ; the interest
with which it inspires those who deign to be present at our
exhibitions, have all forced us to sacrifice our own opinion to the
general utility.

The blind have natural propensities for this art. A considerable
number of them, deprived of the means of living, seize with
eagerness, through necessity, an employment towards which their
inclination had already so powerfully attracted them. It is only
the want of instruction, without doubt, which reduces some of
them to the necessity of wandering in the streets, from door to
door, grating the ear by the aid of an ill-tuned instrument, or a
hoarse voice, that they may extort an inconsiderable piece of
money, which is frequently given them with an injunction to be
silent (jo).

(p) If the taste and inclination which certain blind persons have shown for the violin,
or for such instruments as can easily be joined with it, were directed by art, perhaps they
might make use of it for gaining more decently their livelihood. An estimable citizen,*
who approves of all the parts of our institution, without discovering for any of them a
particular predilection, suggested to us in the course of one of our exhibitions, that one
might usefully employ in the train blind musicians at festivals.

* Mr. Thierry, Author of the Traveller's Almanack.


Others less unfortunate, and giving themselves up by choice to
an instrument which affords them more resource, follow the career
of Couperin, of Balbatre, of Sejan, of Miroir, of Carpentiers (q).

Our institution will furnish all of them with assistance, whether
in the study or practice of their art. Before our time, teachers of
the blind were obliged to make them comprehend, by playing them
over and over, the small pieces of music which they wished to
execute. We have caused to be cast musical characters proper to
represent upon paper all its possible varieties, by elevations on its
surface in the manner of those which we have devised to represent
words (r).

By the assistance of our printed music, then the blind pupil
may learn at present the principles of that art, and impress on his
memory the different pieces of music with which he wishes to
enrich it (s).

He may likewise form to himself a library of taste, composed of
the most enchanting musical productions ; and in short he himself
may transmit to us the fruits of his own genius (/).

With respect to the music introduced into our particular
exhibitions, we beg of our readers only to consider it as a decent
recreation, which we have seen ourselves obliged to grant to our
pupils. Our institution is, in its origin, a kind of workhouse,
the different artists and labourers of which amuse their toils from

(3) All the world knows the merit of Mr. Chauvet, blind organist of Notre Dame de
Bonne-Nouvelle. They quote in France several other blind people whose talents ascertain
the utility of this study for our pupils. How comfortable for us will it be one day to have
extracted from this art of harmony the means of subsistence for a part of these unfortunate
people, and to have seen them become, by a happy choice, the instruments of beneficence.

(r) It has been objected to us with propriety, that our blind pupils cannot execute and
feel the musical characters at the same time, which people who see call performing at sight,
but this never was the end which we proposed. What matters it though they perform a
piece of music by heart, provided they perform it correctly and faithfully.

(s) No person is ignorant how faithful and sure are the memories of the blind, and with
what readiness they furnish them. It is likewise known what a clear conception the
greatest number of them discover in difficult operations of mind ; talents so astonishing,
that one would almost doubt whether nature was more parsimonious in her gifts with
respect to them, or anxious to recompense them for those which she has refused.

(t) Mile. Paradis, who was employed in the study of composition during her continu-
ance in Paris, and who then sought the means of figuring the chords, learned with pleasure
that we were making trials on the same subject. We regret that her abrupt departure to
go and reap, under another climate, the fruits of her talents, did not leave us time to offer
her the result of our procedures, to assist her in fixing upon paper the matter of her study.


time to time with harmony. And we have, with less reluctance,
permitted them to execute some little pieces, even in their public
exercises, that the most part of the beneficent people, who have
deigned to be present at them, have shown the most lively and
sensible compassion on hearing their performances.


Of the Occupations relative to Manual Employments, or

BEFOEE the birth of our institution, some of the blind, doubtless
fatigued with that wretched inactivity to which their deplorable
situation seemed to condemn them, made efforts to shake it off.
(u) Convinced of their fitness for several manual employments,
we had no other anxiety but that of selecting such tasks as were
proper for them. We applied them with success to spinning.


Online LibraryRené Just HaüyAn essay on the education of the blind; (Dedicated to the King of France), Paris, 1786 → online text (page 2 of 3)