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