The sign language. used as a means of commun1-:ation between deaf mutes, is of course unavailable in tiie dark, and is also unadapted to the use of blind mutes. It is, moreover unadapted for private communications, as the language spoken to one is spoken to all present who understand it. Spoken language can be whispered, or its volume can be so reduced as to be inaudible to other ears than those for which it is intended; but the force of the sign language cannot thus be modified, and when private conversations are held, written language is generally employed. Besides the tedious-ness of this process, it cannot always be resorted to, and therefore inventors have tried to devise means Whereby con-vei'sations may be carried on under all circumstances except the fatal and insurmountable one of separation. We have within a year or two read in some foreign journal, the name of which we cannot at present remember, of an in -strument employed for effecting communication between deaf mutes, or between them and thoSe not versed in the sign language. We have before uS a slip which describes this instrument, and which states that the invention was made by Mr. Bertram Mitford, of Cheltenham, England. "He uses a hollow case of any convenient form or size, made of wood or other Suitable light material, and this case is provided with a handle by which it is to be held in the hand of the person using it. On the side of the case which faces the user there are contained the letters of the alphabet, numerals, or other signs useful to persons holding conversation with one another ; and upon the opposite side, which faces the person communicated with, there is provided an opening protected by glass. In the interior of the hollow case are placed a number of slides worked by buttons which traverse along slots arranged each immediately above a different letter or sign. I'he .upper end of each of these slides carries the corresponding letter or sign to that marked on the case opposite to the particular button ; and when any slide or button is pushed along the slot, the corresponding letter or sign will be presented at the glazed aperture on the opposite side of the case. By successively raising and lowering or moving the slides it is obvious that words can be easily spelt and communication be e,tablished with the deafand dumb without necessitating the knowledge of the signs known as the deaf and dumb alphabet." While it is evident that this machine will answer the purpose designed ; it does not, of course, supply the want we have stated. Sight is absolutely necessary to its employment. We have only noticed it as illustrating the fact that some simple, and easily-formed alphabet is absolutely essential. and this alphabet must be capable of being read and communicated by the sense of touch. Such an alphabet, which, so far as we know, is new, it is our present object to lay before our readers. It is the invention of a gentleman living in Brooklyn, and he permits us to make it public property. In reading or communicating this alphabet the hands are placed, as shown in the accompanying engraving. to bring like fingers of the hands together. The hands are nearly closed as shown, and the balls of the five fingers are placed together, its indicated. The fingers of each hand may be numbered from the thumb, the thumb being called 1 and the Utle finger 5. The letters are made by a quick strong pressure of the balls of the fingers of the individual communicating upon the baUs of the fingers of the person addressed, the hands of the latter remaining passive ; the letters being indicated according to the following system. The touches will be indicated by dots, the number of touches by the number of dots, the fingers with which the touches are made by its number ; those on the right hand being further indicated by the letter K and those on the left being indicated by the letter L. Thus : A - 1, L. N - 5, R B - - 4, L. 0 - 4, R C - - 1, R P - - 5, R D - - 2, R Q - 4, 5, L. E - 1, R Ii - 2, L. F - - 1, L. S - 3, L. G- - 3, L. T - 3, R. H- 4, L. ' U- 5, L. I - 3, RV - 4, 5, R J - - 5, L. \IV - - 2, L, TC - 2, 3, E. X - 3, 3, 4, R L - 3, R. Y - 2,3, L M - - 4, R Z - 2,3,4, L. The word " Brute " would be, spelled out, - - 4, L ; - 2, L, 5, L, ; 2, R; -11, R; only six motions, which can be mad' 373 in the time required for making the ordinary capital B with the pen. The number of motions required for spelhng out word " Indestructibility " would require only twenty one motions, and it contains seventeen letters. A system that could be more easily memorized mht be devised, but it could not be executed so rapidly. With the alphabet we have given, it would be possible, after a little practice, to converse at the rate of one hundred words per minute, and as the motions are concealed by the position of the hands, eavesdroppers, if we may employ that term, would be counted out. When a double letter is required, it is distinguished from other letters for which it might be mistaken by che touches being repeated more slowly. Thus, E, which is made y a single pressure of the first finger of the right hand will, when doubled, resemble C, which is made by two pressures of the same finger, unless the pressures are made full and slow. Numbers may be spelled out, therefore no provision is made for them, A slight twist of the wrist indicates the close of a word, and a brief hand-shake announces the close of a communication ; pauses are not indicated, but ready made, as in speaking. The position shown in the engraving is that adopted while persons are standing side by side, as in walking. In conversations, when persons are seated, the pei'sons face each other, and the vvrists cross ; and in the reclining position, when persons face each other, conversation is practicable and easy. The physical effort necessary to converse by this method is not nearly so great as in the ordinary sign language, a great advantage to sick mutes, who frequently are unable through failing strength to make their wants known. We think our readers will agree with us that this is a very simple and ingenious method, and worthy the attention of those who are engaged in the care and instruction of deaf and blind mates.
This article was originally published with the title "Communication with and between Deaf Mutes" in Scientific American 21, 24, 372-373 (December 1869)