Page Through a 19th-Century Embossed U.S. Atlas Designed with Touchable Cartography for Blind Students — Colossal

Home / Page Through a 19th-Century Embossed U.S. Atlas Designed with Touchable Cartography for Blind Students — Colossal
Page Through a 19th-Century Embossed U.S. Atlas Designed with Touchable Cartography for Blind Students — Colossal




Design
History
Illustration

#blindness
#books
#disability
#geography
#maps
#United States

June 23, 2023

Grace Ebert

An open book with raised embossed letters on the left and a raised map on the right

Maine, Atlas of the United States, Printed for the Use of the Blind (1837). All images via David Rumsey Map Associates

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.

Flip through digital scans of the book at David Rumsey Map Associates. (via Kottke)

 

An open book with raised embossed letters on the left and a raised map on the right

New Hampshire

An open book with raised embossed letters on the left and a raised map on the right

Rhode Island

An open book with raised embossed letters on the left and a raised map on the right

Ohio

An open book with raised embossed letters on the left and a raised map on the right

Illinois

An open book with just one side showing with a raised map of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania

An open book with raised embossed letters on the left and a raised map on the right

New Jersey

#blindness
#books
#disability
#geography
#maps
#United States

 

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