A Peep into the Menagerie of Birds, Alston type

Unknown, A Peep into the Menagerie of Birds, Embossed for the Use of the Blind (Glasgow: Printed in the Asylum at the Institution Press by John Alston, 1842). Book, Alston type. Dimensions: 152 x 457 x 20mm (open).

RNIB Collection Acc No: L1/3

Credit: RNIB

Credit: RNIB

John Alston (director of the Glasgow Asylum for the Blind) published his first ‘specimen of writing for the use of the blind’, an adaption of a Dr Fry’s sans serif version of the Roman alphabet, in 1836. Although Alston was aware of experiments with arbitrary alphabetic systems, he argued that ‘the more closely the alphabet for the Blind could be assimilated to the alphabet of the seeing,so much a greater boon would be conferred upon them’. He was awarded a government grant of £400 to develop his system in 1839. This book features simple embossed illustrations of birds, reflecting the broader range of topics printed by Alston’s Glasgow press.

A relief image of this work is available in the exhibition


John Alston, First Specimen of Printing for the Use of the Blind, Made in Glasgow by the Asylum for the Blind, Oct 21, 1836 (Glasgow: 1836)

Unknown, Magazine for the Blind (Simpkin, Marshall & Co.: 1839-41)

Object Description:

Credit: RNIB

Credit: RNIB

This book has singled-sided right hand numbered reading pages. The left hand pages are the reverse of the embossed writing and illustrations of the preceding right hand page and are not numbered. This book is open on page 4, the right hand page. The unnumbered left hand page is not numbered). The left hand side is stamped with reversed embossed writing and an illustration of a robin redbreast from page 3. The right page includes an embossed illustration of a swallow, and embossed text. The illustration is set in a box on the left hand side of the page, vertically (top to bottom) stretching from near the top of the page to a third of the way to the bottom, and horizontally (left to right) about a third of the width of the page. The text is a version of the Roman alphabet: all the letters are upper case. The text reads: THE SWALLOW. [New paragraph] OF THE SWALLOW THERE ARE NUMEROUS SPECIES, BUT THE GENERAL APPEARANCE OF ALL ARE NEARLY THE SAME. THEIR BILLS ARE SMALL, BROAD AT THE BENT, AND SLIGHTLY CURVED; THE WINGS ARE LONG, & THE TAIL FORKED. THEY ARE BIRDS OF PASSAGE, AND MIGRATE, ON THE APPROACH OF WINTER TO WARMER CLIMATES, REVISITING US WITH THE RETURN OF SPRING. [New heading] THE BLACKBIRD. [New paragraph] THE PLUMAGE OF THIS BIRD IS ALTOGETHER BLACK, AND FROM THIS CIRCUMSTANCE IT DERIVES ITS NAME. ITS TUNES ARE LOUD, CLEAR, AND MELODIUS, & WHEN TAMED YOUNG, IT MAY BE TAUGHT TO WHISTLE A VARIETY OF TUNES. [End page]. [End description].

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