About a decade after French educator Louis Braille invented the eponymous system for blind and sight-impaired readers, the New England Institution for Education of the Blind released its own embossed designs allowing those with low or no vision access to important information. Under the leadership of Samuel Gridley Howe, the school, which is now the Perkins School for the Blind, acquired a printing press in 1835 and began to create a variety of learning materials with raised writing for its students. One of those books was an atlas of the United States, which held touchable cartography within its pages.
Paired with descriptions written in standard Latin script—this proved much more difficult to read than braille and never gained the popularity of its counterpart—the maps contain typical information like longitude and latitude, along with the area’s population, climate, and commerce. Solid lines denote rivers, a singular raised shoreline buttressed by parallel lines represents oceans, and clustered triangles are mountains. Printed in 1837 in an edition of 50, this version of the atlas contains just 24 states. Only four copies are known to remain.
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