Touch to See: A Nineteenth-Century Book for Blind Readers

June 3, 2022
10am - 2pm
Swem Library, Special Collections Research Center
400 Landrum Dr
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
Access & Features
  • Free food
  • Registration/RSVP
1836 New Testament

We often think of sight-impairment as a barrier to literacy, but as early as the 1800s, US educators experimented with raised-print (or embossed) text books that blind and low-vision students could read by touch. Today, these tactile books stand as reminders that text is a material and multi-sensory experience. In the workshop “Touch to See: A Nineteenth-Century Book for Blind Readers,” we will consider the production, use, and physical state of one of these books, an 1836 New Testament embossed at what is now the Perkins School for the Blind and held at The College of William & Mary’s Swem Library Special Collections Resource Center. This workshop centers the experience of encountering this unusual tactile book (whether by sight, touch, or both) in order to discuss what it means to read by touch. Examining the range of textual and material decisions surrounding this New Testament, we will consider tactile books as, on the one hand, representative of the uneven (and often ableist) power structures that put them into print. On the other hand, however, tactile books also represent early efforts toward Universal Design, and workshop participants will also consider nineteenth-century understandings of access and inclusive learning. Overall, this workshop aims to broaden our expectations for books and how we read them.


[[mhbryant, Meghan Bryant]]