Thomas Lucas makes the 1842 Illustrated London News

a copy of the Illustrated London News article

Welcome to the 175th Anniversary Digital Exhibition of RLSB’s archives! Our first item comes from a perfectly preserved copy of the Illustrated London News, published in February 1842.

RLSB founder Thomas Lucas and his embossed Lucas Type attracted great publicity when they were featured in an early edition of the Illustrated London News – the world’s first illustrated paper that ran from 1842 to 2003.

The feature, pictured here to the right, highlighted the support that Lucas’ work had gained since he established his school for blind children in London in 1837.

The article said of the Lucas type: “Abandoning all previous methods, he [Lucas] adopted a modification of stenographic characters, together with a system of contractions, which while they more readily informed, actually refreshed the delicate sense of touch. This is now called the ‘Britannic Universal Alphabet for the Blind.’

“It is composed of four straight lines and four semicircles, compounded with a sort of crochet head; these form thirteen simple characters, and thirteen formed from the roots of these with a crochet-head to each. There are ten double letters from the same roots, distinguished also by the crotchet –head; these also represent the nine figures and the cypher whether used as numerals or ordinals. In all thirty-six characters are employed.”

Agnes and Laura’s reading test

Among the young people that Lucas helped were two sisters from China known as Agnes and Laura, who are pictured in the article. The girls were called upon to demonstrate their reading skills to supporters of the school, and the article reveals an interesting method that was taken to test their reading ability…

“Two Chinese children , ‘Agnes’ and ‘Laura’, were objects of great interest, and read their appointed lessons with English emphasis and discretion.

“Attempts were made to confuse them by presenting to their touch books of a different character from those to which they has been used, but the hoax was in every case promptly detected, and after a moment’s explanation, their names and characters were readily announced.”

They managed to impress the audience, many of whom made donations including the Goldsmith’s Company who donated £50.

Read an article about Agnes who went on to become a teacher of blind students. 

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