Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros84 AutomneBlindness and Design: Kneass’ Phi...

Blindness and Design: Kneass’ Philadelphia Magazine for the Blind (1899)

La conception des publications pour aveugles : l’exemple de Kneass’ Philadelphia Magazine for the Blind (1899)
Vanessa Warne


Cet article examine la façon dont sont représentées les poètes femmes dans une anthologie de poésie majeure de l’époque édouardienne, Poets of the Younger Generation, publiée par John Lane en 1902. Dans Poets, Archer cherche à canoniser trente-trois poètes de la fin du dix-neuvième siècle, dont neuf poètes femmes (Katharine Tynan Hinkson, Nora Hopper, Alice Meynell et Rosamund Marriott Watson, pour ne citer que celles-ci). Les entrées de l’anthologie d’Archer sont accompagnées d’illustrations en gravure sur bois de Robert Bryden, fondées sur des portraits photographiques des poètes. Cet essai situe ces gravures dans le contexte des personnalités de la fin de l’époque victorienne, du renouveau esthétique que représentent la gravure sur bois et l’illustration gravée sur bois, et de la présence de plus en plus marquée du portrait d’auteur à l’époque de la reproduction mécanique. Mon essai analyse ainsi l’interaction complexe entre le vocabulaire critique qu’utilise Archer et les images de Bryden. À mesure que le commentaire critique d’Archer élabore un vocabulaire reconduisant des jugements de valeur et des catégories hiérarchiques, vocabulaire nourri par des préjugés concernant l’identité nationale ou générique, les images de Bryden renforcent ce phénomène en enfermant les poètes femmes dans le cadre décoratif de l’appellation « poétesses ».

Haut de page

Texte intégral

1Magazines for blind people published in nineteenth-century America and Britain are case studies in accessible design. Produced without the use of ink, the embossed pages of these niche publications were read by touch, a practice whose English-language history dates to the late 1820s. While magazines for blind people featured content similar to, and in some cases drawn directly from, that of the ink-print press, they differ significantly in design from mainstream periodicals. Broader than they are tall, these magazines feature content that is not divided into columns but instead runs the width of the page. There are no illustrations and little by way of decorative embellishment or shifts in the size of print to differentiate between textual elements or to signal their relative importance. Embossed on heavy paper, with text on only one side of each sheet, and with far less text per page than ink-print magazines, these periodicals look and feel different from their ink-print contemporaries. In what follows, I offer a brief history of magazines made for and by blind people, and I take up the June 1899 issue of Kneass’ Philadelphia Magazine for the Blind as a representative of this subgenre. Exploring the small-scale movement of readers’ fingers across pages and the large-scale movement of these magazines by mail, I argue for the recognition of raised-print magazines as the achievement of a reading community defined as much by its appetite for periodical reading as by sensory difference.

2Raised-print magazines, like books for blind readers, required the development of a method for embossing text on paper. French educator Valentin Haüy embossed the first books in raised print in Paris in the 1780s, using them to teach blind students to read. The publication of raised-print books in English followed in the late 1820s. Though curiously belated, the introduction into North America and Britain of reading by touch changed the lives of many visually disabled people. Schools for blind students opened in the wake of this development, and visiting societies offered instruction in people’s homes. These educational organizations, largely responsible for the printing of raised-print materials, invested heavily in the development of libraries of devotional books, textbooks, and canonized literary works, but magazines, understood as ephemera and as luxuries rather than necessities, were a low priority.

3Periodical publications were, however, much sought after by blind readers. The blind activist and author W. Hanks Levy observed in 1872 that ‘Men and women without sight require to be made acquainted with general literature, and with the contents of newspapers, as much as their more fortunate brethren’. He argued,

To be kept acquainted with current events, to feel themselves on an equality with their neighbours in general information, and to have an opportunity of satisfying the cravings of their minds, for the acquisition of knowledge, are what the blind need to a far greater extent than other persons. (Levy 493)

4Many sighted commentators agreed with assessments of this kind. In 1887, D. B. Gray, superintendent of the Oregon Institution for the Blind, lamented blind people’s reliance on sighted people for ‘second-hand’ news:

As things are now, while the blind enjoy—when they can get it—the news of the world as well if not better than any other class of people, they are at sad disadvantages in receiving it piecemeal, haphazard and second-hand from their friends. A weekly newspaper, with intelligence of what is taking place in the social, commercial, political, literary, scientific and religious world, not overlooking short stories, conundrums and pleasantries for younger readers, would be a great educating power, to say nothing of the vast pleasure it would afford the blind. (Levy 44)

5The value of this kind of publication was stated with particular urgency in 1867 by a commentator reflecting on the publication of the newly launched Kneass’ Philadelphia Magazine for the Blind (hereafter KPMB). Writing for the Pennsylvania School Journal, the author imagines the situation of a representative blind reader:

books, and particularly those of periodical literature, especially adapted to his condition, are not only essential to the preservation as well as the advancement of his education and mental improvement, but they are a debt due to him by the same public which gave the otherwise worthless power to use them. What would be thought of the parent who gave his lame child crutches but yet broke them as soon as that child was perfect in their use, and then left him to crawl on the ground, as before? So it is with printing for the blind. (‘Printing for and by the Blind’ 27–28)

6Equating the experience of blindness with the situation of a disabled child obliged to ‘crawl on the ground’, the passage makes strategic use of an affecting depiction of disability to generate sympathy for a differently disabled group. Furthermore, by means of the association of reading material and the crutch, the author of the passage reframes the discussion of raised-print periodicals; far from a luxury, they meet, in this formulation, a basic need, providing an amelioration to which a blind person, trained in reading skills, is entitled.

  • 1 Bishop Clark, who is not identified more fully by Wayside Gleanings, could be Thomas M. Clark (1812(...)

7Other commentators who supported the publication of raised-print magazines opted to compare the experiences of blind people with those of the sighted majority. An 1887 article titled ‘Periodicals for the Blind’ published in the Mechanical News reflected on sighted people’s easy access to periodical materials: ‘At this day, there are not many, even among the comparatively uneducated, who do not derive a great part of each day’s solace from literature of some kind—the daily or weekly paper, the magazine, or the novel’ (196). Identifying blind people as a group for which ‘the provision of this kind of comfort is necessarily quite limited’, he concludes that KPMB is ‘a most welcome addition to their small list of pleasures’ (196). Similar points were made by Bishop Clark,1 in 1882, in an appeal to sighted readers:

Just imagine your own reading for a lifetime to be confined to the few volumes that occupy a couple of shelves in your library, without ever being able to read a newspaper or a periodical of any sort at all. All that the good offices of the benevolent have thus far been able to do is to give the blind a slight taste of a few of our best and most popular authors,—a little mouthful of grass from the green pastures of literature,—a cup or two of water from the fountain of which we drink till we are gorged. (Clark 131)

8Passages like this, shared in mainstream periodicals, raised awareness of publications such as the KPMB and of the limited reading materials available to blind people. Clark’s image of a life’s reading being limited to a couple of shelves of books effectively contrasts abundance with lack, locating the satisfaction of readers’ basic needs, be they sighted or blind, not in a few shelved volumes ready at hand but in a steady diet of fresh periodical reading.

  • 2 For American estimates of a population of over 35,000 blind people, see, for example, a review of t (...)
  • 3 For example, in 1881, the Indiana Institute for the Education of the Blind purchased six copies of (...)

9Publishers of raised-print magazines, some of whom were affiliated with a school and others who acted independently, were eager to meet demand but had to contend with the same challenges that limited raised-print book production, not least among them the high cost of materials. Unlike cheaply produced ink-print equivalents, raised-print magazines were printed on the same quality of paper as raised-print books, a heavy linen paper able to receive and retain the impression made by specially prepared plates. Adding to production costs was the fact that text could only be embossed on one side of the paper. The large size of raised-print letterpress also severely restricted the amount of text that could fit on each page. Another barrier to the development of a periodical culture for blind readers was the small size of the readership. The visually disabled population was estimated at various points in the nineteenth century to number 30,000 in Britain and between 35,000 and 50,000 in the United States,2 but only a portion of this population was literate. In addition, and perhaps unsurprisingly, many blind people who could read were unemployed and lacked the financial means to subscribe to a magazine. Announcements in the ink-print press consequently urged charitably minded individuals to gift a blind person with a subscription. A commentator observed of KPMB, for instance, that ‘no one can do a better thing for the blind than to aid its publication and circulation. The gift of a copy to an educated blind neighbour, would be an invaluable present; it would be not only to some extent “sight to the eyes” but “light to the mind”’ (‘Printing for and by the Blind’ 28). While it is likely that some readers benefitted from a gift of this kind, others, unable to make a purchase on their own, could access copies shared among a community of readers affiliated with a school or charitable organization.3

  • 4 A copy of Lux in Tenebris was featured in a posthumous portrait of Friedlander made in 1841. Friedl (...)

10It is not surprising that the first generation of raised-print magazines, facing significant challenges, struggled to stay in print. In Britain, Mr Lambert published twenty-four monthly numbers of a raised-print magazine in York. A successor, the Magazine for the Blind, began publication in 1854 and likewise continued publication for only two years. By 1910, however, W. H. Illingworth could list more than fifteen different magazines for blind readers in his survey of blind people’s education. Published as frequently as weekly and sold at prices ranging from 2s. to 10s. a year, British offerings included general interest magazines, such as Santa Lucia; specialized periodicals, such as Craigmillar Harp, a Braille magazine about music; and Braille editions of mainstream publications such as the Daily Mail, which was read aloud by sighted women and transcribed into Braille by blind staff at the Normal College (Bird 635). One of the earliest (if not the earliest) American raised-print magazines, Lux in Tenebris was published in Philadelphia at the Overbrook School for the Blind by Julius Friedlander in the 1830s.4 KPMB, also published in Philadelphia, was edited by Napoleon Bonaparte Kneass Jr, a blind person whose privately owned press produced other matter for blind readers, including editions of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (1600) and Alfred Tennyson’s ‘Enoch Arden’ (1864). Sometimes misidentified as the first magazine of its kind, KPMB first appeared in 1867. The magazine, which published essays, short fiction, poems, news items, and advertisements, was issued semi-monthly, monthly, or bi-monthly at different times in its decades-long circulation. Its page range varied from ten to forty-six pages. When Kneass died in 1898, responsibility for the magazine passed to Josephine B. Cobb. In June 1899, under Cobb’s editorship, a subscription cost ‘$3.30 per annum, in advance, Post free’; a non-subscriber paid thirty cents for a single number.

11All of the content of the June 1899 issue of KPMB was taken from the mainstream press, an indication that while sighted and blind readers’ modes of reading differed, their interests and appetites did not. In the ‘Miscellaneous News’ section, readers could catch up on recent international events, including Peace Congress meetings, Queen Victoria’s recognition of Lord Kitchener for his military service in Khartoum, and Russia’s acquisition of a new icebreaker. These reports are taken word for word from the 22 June 1899 issue of the Great Round World, a weekly news magazine, though this borrowing is not acknowledged. Interestingly, while the 22 June issue of the Great Round World contains a detailed story on the Dreyfus affair, the KPMB relies on another source, the 8 June 1899 issue of Christian Work, to keep its readers up to date on developments in the case, though again, the source text is not acknowledged. Also unacknowledged are the sources for a reflection on the death of Johann Strauss, reproduced from the 10 June 1899 issue of Christian Work; a poem by Frances Fuller Victor, taken from the July 1898 issue of Overland Monthly; and an essay on Tolstoy, an abbreviated version of a long essay published six months earlier in Our Day: The Altruistic Review. Only two items in the issue are attributed: an article, ‘The French Flower Girl,’ identified as an excerpt from ‘a recently published work entitled “The Dungeons of Old Paris”’, and ‘The Mystery of Sleep’, an essay on the biology of sleep from the 1 April 1899 issue of the Spectator. Functioning as a review, but opting to acknowledge only two of its seven source texts, this issue of KPMB does not contain prefatory material to signal its reproduction of other periodicals’ content nor anything to indicate that the editor or her readers felt that this practice was justified by a mandate to make mainstream periodical material available to blind people. It is possible that the practice had no connection to an accessibility mandate but was instead a kind of unacknowledged borrowing, characteristic of some ink-print publications.

12In another connection to the mainstream press, the final page of the issue advertises four businesses: Wanamaker’s department store, billed as the ‘Biggest Store in the World’; Dr D. Jayne’s Expectorant for strengthening weak lungs; Strawbridge and Clothier’s, a fabric and ready-to-wear clothing supplier; and Jacob Reed’s Sons, a clothing store in Philadelphia. The presence of these advertisements, produced in raised print, suggests the recognition by businesses of blind people as potential customers with the means both to subscribe to a magazine and to make purchases based on their reading of it. The inclusion of advertisements was noted by contemporary commentators, one of whom, writing for the Critic in 1890, praised the magazine’s ‘goodly array of advertisements’ alongside other offerings such as ‘original poetry’ (‘Magazine Notes’ 17). Another reviewer, regretting that the content of the magazine was, in his assessment, ‘a limited bill of fare for an entire month, even with an occasional supplement of current news’, concluded that, given the meagre nature of these offerings, ‘we may be certain that the advertisements are carefully read’ (‘Notes’ 800). An unflattering assessment of what Kneass was able to share in his magazine’s pages, the comment portrays blind readers as eager to read any text available to them, back matter included.

13The Kneass family lent their name not only to the magazine but also to the script in which it was embossed. The first generations of literate blind people were trained either at new schools for blind students or at home by visiting societies to read one of numerous coexisting tactile transcription systems. Some nineteenth-century blind people read Louis Braille’s now- familiar raised-dot system; others read text in scripts that closely resemble the letterpress read by sighted readers. The latter include scripts named for Scottish printer John Alston and for American educator Samuel Gridley Howe, both of whom created and championed scripts that they felt supported connections between blind and sighted people through the strong resemblance between their scripts and ink-print text. Kneass’s was a Roman alphabet system, closely resembling ink-print letterpress; though produced without ink, it is easily read by sight.

14Kneass script (also known as Kneass’s Improved Combined Letter) was distinguished from its closest rival, Howe (known as Boston Line), by its use of both lowercase and uppercase letters. Whereas Howe believed that capitalization made raised-print text too difficult to read, Kneass was committed to the use of capital letters. He tried, however, to increase the tactility of his script by printing descenders (g, j, p, q, y) in their capital letter form regardless of their position in a word in order to keep the whole of the letter above the text’s baseline. The result is a more streamlined strip of text for the reader’s finger to pass over. He also introduced modified letter and symbol shapes to improve legibility; Kneass’s lowercase ‘e’ resembles a reversed number 3 and a made-to-order ampersand helped speed the reader’s progress. These choices, like the column-free page design and the landscape orientation of the page, reduced the time and energy invested by a reader in moving his or her finger over the page to decipher by touch the text that it contained.

15The present obsolescence of Kneass script is a signal that this script was not as easy to read by touch as Braille, whose survival testifies to the ease with which its raised dots can be read, written, and printed. Interestingly, the cover of the June 1899 KPMB makes extensive use of raised dots, but these dots are used neither to write Braille nor another now-obsolete raised-dot system called New York Point. The dots are used instead to write the magazine’s title in Roman alphabet capital letters that can be traced by the reader but are too large to fit under the reader’s fingertip, a treatment that sets the title apart. The cover contains the kinds of identifying information one typically finds in a masthead banner: the title, the name of the editor, the street address of the magazine’s offices, and the price, as well as the magazine’s postal classification as ‘Second-Class Matter’. Dots are used again to guide the reader’s finger from titles given in the table of contents, also included on the cover, to corresponding page numbers. The cover also has two decorative elements: a tactile wavy line separates header information from the table of contents, and raised dots form a rectangular border that frames the magazine’s name. The first page repeats the magazine’s name in full, as well as the volume number, issue number, and date. This page’s most noteworthy feature is a curved line embossed under the masthead. This line resembles to the sighted observer the profile of an open book laid flat on a table and viewed from the side, the two halves of the open book mirroring one another like wings. This decorative line, two inches in length, is the closest the magazine comes to illustration.

16Like the absence of ink and the use of a bespoke script, the page layout of the main matter of the KPMB distinguishes this magazine from its ink-print contemporaries. The formatting of Frances Fuller Victor’s ‘A June Song’, included in the June 1899 issue of KMPB, is a good example of the kinds of modifications made to the page design to accommodate the needs and preferences of blind readers. When published a year earlier in Overland Monthly, this sixty-eight-line, four-stanza poem was presented in two columns, with generous areas of white space haloing the poem. In contrast, KPMB’s treatment of the poem more closely resembles the conventional handling of prose. The start of each new stanza is signalled by a line break, but within the stanzas, line breaks are signalled only by a modest elongation of the space between the last and first words of consecutive lines. Printing poetry in this way, KPMB accommodated blind readers’ desire for a longer line of text, minimizing the inconvenience of relocating by touch the start of a new line of text, a task that requires more time and effort when performed with fingers than with eyes. This formatting also reduced the space required for the poem and did away with white space, a visual reprieve and visible frame of no use to a blind reader.

17The treatment of another poem, published at an earlier point in the KPMB’s history, is an interesting exception to the magazine’s practice of reproducing content selected from ink-print magazines. As part of an announcement of a new raised-print edition of poems by Dr Oliver Wendell Holmes, KPMB shared with readers a preview: a preface poem by Holmes written for the collection. This poem’s opening lines include standard prefatory expressions of humility and, equally conventionally, an identification of the collection as a posy of gathered flowers, but they also comment directly on differences between blind and sighted people’s reading:

Dear friends, left darkling in the long eclipse
That veils the noonday—you whose finger-tips
A meaning in these ridgy leaves can find
Where ours go stumbling, senseless, helpless, blind—
This wreath of verse how dare I offer you
To whom the garden’s choicest gifts are due? (1–6)

18The ease with which blindness is used figuratively in a poem addressed to people who are literally blind is both regrettable and revealing. Just as notably, however, the poem comments on its medium of publication: ‘ridgy leaves’ of raised print that can be read productively by blind people but will, the poet anticipates, baffle sighted people. Shared first in raised print with the blind readers of KPMB, this poem was reproduced in ink in periodicals for sighted readers as diverse as the New York Times and the Kansas City Medical Index, both of which cited the KPMB as their source. Relocated from the raised-print page that the poem itself describes, multiplied in the tightly columned and crowded pages of ink-print periodicals, the poem surpasses its self-described limitations, reaching beyond an audience of blind people and its own specialized medium of publication. A noteworthy exception to the magazine’s practice of reprinting ink-print periodical material, the reproduction of this poem signals mainstream interest in this niche publication and in the experiences of blind readers more generally. Though made without ink and possessing very few decorative elements, raised-print magazines attracted the attention of sighted commentators who, like Holmes, were intrigued by blindness and by the experience of reading by touch.

19While the publication of a growing number of raised-print periodicals was a welcome development, raised-print magazines could not satisfy all blind people’s appetite for news and entertainment because literacy, a new possibility for blind people, was by no means universal in the visually disabled population. While some blind people were unable to access literacy training, others opted not to read by touch. W. W. Fenn, a prolific contributor to the ink-print periodical press, was a highly educated blind person who could not read by touch. Trained as a landscape painter, Fenn began to write and publish essays and short stories following his loss of sight in midlife. He was a contributor to at least fifteen different publications, including Argosy, Good Words, Household Words, and All the Year Round. Only a small portion of Fenn’s oeuvre engages with his experience of blindness, but in an autobiographical essay, ‘My Own Story’, Fenn confesses, with characteristic humour, that ‘I am weak enough to like the news and some of the books of the day before yesterday’ (18). He also describes his experience of working with a sighted reader to access this material:

it would never do to let events drift by me because I cannot actually observe them and be an actor in their midst; and how otherwise can I avoid such a result save through making myself well acquainted with the columns of the daily press? True, I have to spend more time over them than others need, because it is so difficult for the one reading aloud ‘to skim’ judiciously. A man without his eyes inevitably wastes many odd moments. For instance, he cannot . . . dip into the news for any spare five minutes, in the way that others do; hence reading the newspaper equally with the most important books becomes more or less a regular business, requiring a certain period to be set apart for it. (17–18)

20Fenn, a prolific contributor to periodicals he could not read, gains access to the periodical press with the help of a sighted person and experiences periodicals very differently as a result. Both more time consuming and more structured than a sighted person’s reading, his mediated reading of periodicals emphasizes the extent to which newspapers in particular encourage, and even necessitate, skimming. Blind readers had far less text available to them in their raised-print periodicals than Fenn could access with the support of a sighted assistant, but, like Fenn, literate blind people’s ability to skim periodicals was limited not by their reliance on a sighted reader but by the material characteristics of their magazines. Skimming is a mode of reading facilitated and encouraged by headlines that are clearly differentiated from articles, by a wealth of reading material, and by the proximity of diverse materials on a columned page. These features are not characteristic of raised-print magazines, whose limited content and page design discouraged the kinds of non-linear consumption characteristic of sighted people’s newspaper and magazine reading, thus rendering the practice of skimming unavailable to literate and non-literate blind consumers alike.

  • 5 Announcements appear in publications such as New York’s Mechanical News and the Ohio Educational Mo (...)

21Both the movement of content between raised-print and ink-print periodicals and the movement of fingers over a page are more easily mapped than the movement of magazines to and among readers. Announcements of new issues of the KPMB in the ink-print press suggest that the distribution of the magazine was not limited to the city of Philadelphia but reached instead across several states.5 With a dispersed readership, postal accommodation for mailing these bulky magazines was an urgent matter for publishers and consumers. The government of Canada was the first to introduce free postage for printed materials for the use of blind people, passing legislation in 1898. American legislators responded more slowly to the determined campaigning of blind activists and their allies. U.S. postal concessions for ‘Matter for the Blind’, initially limited to the mailing of letters, were extended in 1912 to include periodicals and magazines ‘for which there is no subscription charge to the blind’. These concessions allowed free mailing of borrowed materials sent between individuals and institutions, such as schools and libraries, with the stipulation that the shipped material could not contain any advertising.

22In 1906, ‘Literature for the Blind’ was introduced as a category of postal tariffs in the United Kingdom. Correspondence between advocates for reduced postal rates and postal officials reproduced by Gavin Fryer in Blindman’s Mail: How the Blind Have Been Served by the Post reveals that blind people and their allies faced significant resistance. Writing in 1894 in his role as principal of Edinburgh’s Blind Asylum, W. H. Illingworth alerted the secretary of the General Post Office about the importance of two magazines, Hora Jucunda and Santa Lucia, to blind readers. He then contrasted the postage costs for ink-print publications with their raised-print equivalents: ‘A seeing person obtains, say, Tit Bits by post for 1 1/2d. Now suppose a blind person wishes the same book in embossed form, it costs him not less than Four shillings, prime cost, and nine pence postage, or 4/9 total’ (Fryer 17). Explaining that blind readers represent a population with limited means, he asserted: ‘If the Post Master General can see his way to make the postage on embossed literature for the Blind One Halfpenny per pound all around, the change will be hailed as an inestimable boon by the intelligent Blind of the country, though they will even then be paying three or four times more for the postage of a book—in proportion—than their more fortunate brothers and sisters who can see’ (Fryer 17).

23Illingworth was one of twenty-two signatories on a similarly themed letter, written in 1895 to the Duke of Norfolk, then postmaster general. This letter explained that raised-print magazines, far more expensive to post than ink-print publications, do not contain ‘as much matter as an ordinary Penny newspaper’ (Fryer 18). A decade later, with the situation unchanged, activists, including William P. E. Barnes, Secretary of the British and Foreign Blind Association, would continue to make appeals to the Post Office. Arguing for rate reductions to remove a ‘crushing burden from the shoulders of the Blind’ (Fryer 23), Barnes explained: ‘All forms of embossed literature are unavoidably weighty and bulky and the postage consequently heavy and the Blind feel that the want of a cheaper method of carrying their books and magazines is seriously retarding their progress’ (Fryer 23). When his request to meet with representatives of the Post Office was declined, Barnes wrote again to emphasize the ‘inequality of treatment’ of blind people’s periodical literature in relation to ‘the postage of ordinarily printed newspapers and embossed magazines’ (Fryer 24). This time, he offered very specific comparisons between ink-print and raised-print materials. His comments focused on half-penny postal rates for newspapers, a provision introduced in the U.K. in 1870:

A newspaper, to come within the Post Office description, must be registered and appear once or more than once a week, and if it fits this description it is carried for one halfpenny. In consequence, bulky periodicals such as The Field, The Queen and The Graphic are allowed to pass at this cheap rate. There being no limit as to weight, a publication such as the spring number of The Drapers’ Record, which this year contains over 300 pages of closely printed matter and weighs one pound fourteen ounces, was carried at the same rate. (Fryer 24)

  • 6 Interestingly, while raised-print magazines could be mailed at reduced cost after the passing of le (...)

24Barnes contrasts the handling of these publications with that of a raised-print magazine, Progress, the entire issue of which ‘contains in an embossed form about as much reading matter as would cover an ordinary page of The Times’ (Fryer 24). Progress, he explains, ‘is sold to subscribers at 6d per copy post free, but the cost of postage is generally 2½ d, and thus more than 40% of the gross receipts are taken by the Post Office’ (Fryer 24). These appeals did not move the postmaster to seriously consider concessions, and Barnes acknowledged receipt of news of the Post Office’s unchanged position on the issue ‘with great regret’ (Fryer 26). Fortunately, Barnes and the activist organization that he represented did find an effective champion for their cause—at least a Parliamentary debate suggests as much. The very same arguments that Barnes put forward in writing were used by Member of Parliament Arthur Annesley (Lord Valentia), who used the same titles and cost comparisons as part of an argument for postal reform that he made in parliament on 21 June 1906. Change in the form of reductions in postal fees for raised-print material followed, and a postal amendment was introduced that same year, significantly reducing postal rates in Britain for ‘Blind Literature’, including raised-print magazines.6

  • 7 The author gratefully acknowledges support for this research provided by a Social Sciences and Huma (...)

25As discussed above, many aspects of periodical publications for blind readers tended to emphasize, or to rely on, a collapsing of differences between blind and sighted readers. Indeed, raised-print magazines were themselves imagined by contemporary commentators to function as a means by which to bridge the gap between the cultural experiences of sighted and those of blind reading publics. What the campaign for postal reform demonstrates is the extent to which blind readers were emerging as a distinct class of consumers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a minority whose tastes aligned with those of sighted readers but whose needs were not in fact coincident with those of the majority. While both groups shared an appetite for news and light reading, in their pursuit of access to periodical culture, blind readers demanded changes that extended far beyond the layout of a page or the selection of a script. Asserting blind people’s right to be treated as a special class, campaigners for postal reform argued that blind people’s access to periodical culture required modifications to the operations of the postal service, a public institution whose policies added to the inequity of their position. Rather than simply adapting to sighted practices of distribution, blind readers and blind publishers pushed for accommodations, adapting not only the medium of the magazine but also their nations’ postal systems to make a new possibility, reading a magazine by touch, a reality.7

Haut de page


Annual Reports of the State of Indianafor the Year Ending October 21, 1881. Indianapolis: Burford, 1882. Print.

Bird, M. ‘Our Blind Citizens’. Lady’s Realm 25 (1909): 627–36. Print.

Clark. ‘Books for the Blind’. Wayside Gleanings for Leisure Moments. Cambridge: John Wilson, 1882. 130–32. Print.

‘Current History’. The Great Round World: A History of Our Own Time for Young People and Busy Men and Women 10 (16 June 1899): 815–34. Google Books. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

Fenn, W. W. ‘My Own Story.’ Half-Hours of a Blind Man’s Holiday. Vol. 1. London: Sampson, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1878. 1–24. Print.

Fryer, Gavin. The Blindman’s Mail: How the Blind Have Been Served by the Post. Woodham, Surrey: Gavin Fryer, 2010. Print.

Gray, D. B. ‘Literature and Printing for the Blind’. Proceedings of the Ninth Biennial Meeting of the American Association of Instructors of the Blind. Fort Plain, N.Y.: Mohawk Valley Register, 1887. 42–45. Google Books. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

Handley, Frances. ‘Leo Tolstoi—A Character Sketch’. Our Day: The Altruistic Review 15.86 (Aug. 1895): 71–76. Google Books. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

Illingworth, W. H. History of the Education of the Blind. London: Sampson Low, 1910. Print.

Johns, B. G. Blind People: Their Works and Ways. London: John Murray, 1867. Print.

Levy, W. Hanks. Blindness and The Blind: or, A Treatise on the Science of Typhlology. London: Chapman and Hall, 1872. Print.

‘Magazine Notes’. Critic 13 (11 Jan. 1890): 17. Google Books. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

‘Notes’. Nation 9 Apr. 1885: 800. Google Books. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

‘Periodicals for the Blind’. Mechanical News: A Journal of Manufacturing, Engineering, Milling and Mining 17 (15 Sept. 1887): 196. Google Books. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

‘Printing for and by the Blind’. Pennsylvania School Journal 16.2 (Aug. 1867): 27–28.Google Books. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

Rev. of Kneass’ Philadelphia Magazine for the Blind. The Friends Journal 35 (1885): 799. Google Books. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

Rev. of Kneass’ Philadelphia Magazine for the Blind. The School Journal (30 Sept. 1882): 398. Google Books. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

Victor, Frances Fuller. ‘A June Song’. Overland Monthly 32 (1898): 26. Google Books. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

Willoughby, Edith. Overbrook School for the Blind. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2007. Print.

Haut de page


1 Bishop Clark, who is not identified more fully by Wayside Gleanings, could be Thomas M. Clark (18121903), Bishop of Rhode Island, who published his Reminiscences in 1895.

2 For American estimates of a population of over 35,000 blind people, see, for example, a review of the KPMB in The Friends Journal or The School Journal. For British estimates of a population of 30,000 blind people, see, for example, Johns 7072.

3 For example, in 1881, the Indiana Institute for the Education of the Blind purchased six copies of KPMB, at a total cost of $21.00. See Annual Reports 113.

4 A copy of Lux in Tenebris was featured in a posthumous portrait of Friedlander made in 1841. Friedlander died in 1838. See Willoughby 13.

5 Announcements appear in publications such as New York’s Mechanical News and the Ohio Educational Monthly.

6 Interestingly, while raised-print magazines could be mailed at reduced cost after the passing of legislation in 1906, newspapers for blind people fell outside the reach of the concession as they were treated not as ‘Literature for the Blind’ but as ’Newspapers’, which were covered by a special tariff for the mailing of newspapers that had been created decades earlier. Amendments to regulations were made in 1907 and are reproduced by Gavin Fryer, who explains: ‘“Literature for the Blind” means books and papers impressed in ”Braille”, or other special type, for the use of the blind, but does not include newspapers impressed for the use of the blind and registered at the General Post Office for transmission by post’ (Fryer 36).

7 The author gratefully acknowledges support for this research provided by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Vanessa Warne, « Blindness and Design: Kneass’ Philadelphia Magazine for the Blind (1899) »Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens [En ligne], 84 Automne | 2016, mis en ligne le 01 novembre 2016, consulté le 04 octobre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Vanessa Warne

Vanessa Warne teaches in the Department of English, Film and Theatre at the University of Manitoba, where she holds a cross appointment with the Interdisciplinary Disability Studies MA Program. She is the co-curator with Sabrina Mark of the exhibit Books Without Ink: Reading, Writing and Blindness 18301930 (Winnipeg, 201516). Her current project is a monograph exploring the nineteenth-century history of blindness, literature and literacy.
Vanessa Warne enseigne au Département d’Études anglophones, cinématographiques et théâtrales à l’Université du Manitoba, où elle participe également au programme du Master d’Études interdiscplinaires sur le handicap. Avec Sabrina Mark, elle a réalisé l’exposition Books Without Ink: Reading, Writing and Blindness 18301930 (Winnipeg, 201516). Elle travaille actuellement à une monographie consacrée à l’histoire de la cécité, la littérature et l’alphabétisme au xixe siècle.

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur


Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

Haut de page
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search