The History of Braille (BPT Column)

Happy New Year! Let me first start by hoping that everyone is experiencing an excellent start 2023. And now on to the first library column of the new year, which is all about the history of Braille in honor of World Braille Day on January 4.

World Braille Day is celebrated every year on January 4 because that day is the birthday of its inventor, Louis Braille. Louis Braille, a Frenchman, lost his sight as a child after an accident with an awl. He was sent to be educated at the Royal Institute for the Blind Youth in France when he was 10; this is where he developed his writing system.

Braille consists of raised dots. It is a code in which each letter, or symbol, is based on a cell which can contain up to six dots; where the dots are placed within each cell determine its meaning. Braille used this system to make it possible for each cell to be felt with a single fingertip, allowing for rapid reading. It took many years and, unfortunately, Braille didn’t live to see it, but his invention would begin to be taught at the Royal Institute in 1854.

It has since spread worldwide. Part of its versatility is in the fact that Braille can be written in any language due to the cells representing specific letters instead of whole words. In addition, there are adaptations of Braille for music, mathematics, and science. The version of Braille used for the latter two disciplines is called Nemeth Code. Also, Uno, Monopoly, and LEGO produce versions of their games and instructions in Braille.

World Braille Day is one of the more recent creations I’ve written about. The impact and importance of Braille’s invention was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in November of 2018 when they declared January 4 at World Braille Day, making 2019 the first year it was celebrated.

If you’re curious and would like to learn more about Braille, or its inventor Louis, check out some of our databases which will have more in-depth information than I can provide in my columns. We even have a small collection of Braille books that you can check out to practice learning this wonderful code!

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New and Coming Soon:

  • Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining Our Future by Patty Krawec (Non-Fiction; Book, eAudiobook)
  • Bully Market: My Story of Money and Misogyny at Goldman Sachs by Jamie Fiore Higgins (Autobiography; Book)
  • Classical Mythology A to Z: An Encyclopedia of Gods & Goddesses, Heroes & Heroines, Nymphs, Spirits, Monsters, and Places by Annette Giesecke, illustrated by Jim Tierney (Non-Fiction; Book)
  • Fantastic Creatures of the Mountains and Seas: A Chinese Classic by Jiankun Sun, illustrated by Siyu Chen, translated and with an introduction by Howard Goldblatt (Non-Fiction; Book)
  • Mihi Ever After: Book 1 by Tae Keller, illustrated by Geraldine Rodriguez (Children’s Fiction; Book)
  • Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries Who Remade American Politics in the 1990s by Nicole Hemmer (Non-Fiction; Book)
  • Shanda: A Memoir of Shame and Secrecy by Letty Cottin Pogrebin (Biography; Book, eBook, eAudiobook

Previously posted 1/4/2023 - Bossier Press-Tribune