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Helen Keller embossed book collection

Books and manuscripts donated to Perkins School by Helen Keller


Helen Keller

Date Range:

1881-1905, bulk date range: 1888-1900

Call Number:



This collection consists of embossed books and manuscripts donated to Perkins School in 1909, 1910, and 1915 by Helen Keller from her personal collection. The collection includes books written in French and English Braille, as well as American Braille. There are volumes of novels, poetry, and non-fiction.


105 boxes, 29 linear feet


English, French, German, Latin

Processed by:

Allie Copeland, 2015 ; Biography updated by Susanna Coit, 2022

Processing Note:

This collection was processed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Division of Preservation and Access, Washington, D.C., 2012-2015.

Biographical/Historical notes:

Helen Keller (1880-1968) was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama to retired army Captain Arthur Keller and his second wife, Kate. Helen had a younger brother (Phillips Brooks) and sister (Mildred), and two older half brothers. When she was nineteen months old, she became ill with a very high fever that ultimately left her deaf and blind. Doctors at the time diagnosed this as “brain fever” or “brain congestion,” but experts today believe that she most likely suffered from scarlet fever or meningitis.

Helen Keller developed her own system of hand gestures to communicate with her family and by the time she was seven she had nearly 60 such gestures.  Nonetheless, she was frequently frustrated by the inability to express herself.  When Anne Sullivan arrived to teach her in 1887, Keller quickly learned to fingerspell, as well as to read braille and raised type, and to write in block letters.

After a year and a half of homeschooling, Sullivan decided that Keller would benefit from the resources of a school. In 1888, Sullivan brought Keller to study at Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind (now Perkins School for the Blind). She became a student at the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York in 1894 before attending the Cambridge School for Young Ladies in 1896 to prepare for Radcliffe College. In 1904 she graduated cum laude from Radcliffe and became the first person with deafblindness to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Helen Keller was a prolific writer, publishing 14 books and numerous articles.  She traveled across the globe, advocating for social issues, such as women’s suffrage and rights for people who are blind or deafblind. She received numerous awards throughout her life for her humanitarian efforts.



It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors). The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Perkins School for the Blind, its officers, employees, and agents from and against all claims made by any person asserting that he or she is an owner of copyright.

Credit line/Citation:

AG102 Helen Keller Embossed Book Collection. Perkins School for the Blind Archives, Watertown, MA.


This collection consists of embossed books and manuscripts donated to Perkins School by Helen Keller from her personal collection. There are 61 Books in 105 Volumes; the majority of the collection was donated in 1909. The collection is mostly fiction, including plays by Shakespeare, romantic novels such as Persuasion by Jane Austen, and many volumes of French literature and poetry. There are also non-fiction biographies and history volumes. There are several volumes that are related to Helen Keller’s learning of different languages, including her French Lessons, and manuscript copies of notes on the Latin play Catullus. The majority of books are written in either French or English Braille, but there are a few hand-typed volumes of American Braille, as well as some printed in Latin and German. One book is in a combined system of raised lettering derived from Boston Line Type and Philadelphia Line Letter. The collection is identified by a hand-written note in the front cover of each volume that says “Received by Perkins Institution from Helen A. Keller [date]” or “Helen A. Keller return to Perkins Institution” in the second case, no date is indicated.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  • Series 1: 1909 Donation
  • Series 2: 1910 Donation
  • Series 3: 1915 Donation
  • Series 4: Undated Donations

Writing Systems for the Blind Used by Helen Keller, digital collection on Flickr.

List of digital collections related to Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan that are available online.

Container List:

Series 1: 1909 Donation

  • Always Happy: or the story of Helen Keller, Jennie Chappell, 1895, London, Braille
  • Andromaque, Jean Baptiste Racine, French Braille
  • Athelie, Jean Baptiste Racine, French Braille
  • Britannicus, Jean Baptiste Racine, French Braille
  • Catullus copied by Mrs. Bertha Verner, American Braille
  • Introduction to Catullus copied by Mrs. Bertha Verner for Helen Keller, American Braille
  • Notes on Catullus copied by Bertha Verner for Helen Keller, Vol. 1-2,4-6, American Braille
  • De Amicitia, Cicero, 1900, London, Braille
  • De Rerum Natura, Vol. 1-3,5, Lucretius, 1903, London, English Braille
  • De Senectute, Cicero, 1900, London, Braille
  • Esther, Jean Baptiste Racine, 1891, French Braille
  • Fair Maid of Perth – abridged, Sir Walter Scott, 1888, London, Braille
  • Iphigenie en Aulide, Jean Baptiste Racine, 1890, French Braille
  • Iphigenie, Tradedie, Goethe, 1897, German Braille
  • Imitatio de Jesus Christ, Vol. 1-5, 1890, Braille (interpoint)
  • Journal of the Plague Year, Vol. 1-4, Daniel Dafoe, 1901, Braille
  • L’Art Poetique, Nichlas Boileau-Despreaux, 1887, French Braille
  • Latin Classics: Book 22, Vol. 2, Livie, [1900], Braille
  • Le Cid, Pierre Corneille, 1889, French Braille
  • Le Lutrin, Boileau, 1893, French Braille
  • Le Medicin Malgre Lui, Jean Baptiste Moliere, 1891, French Braille (interpoint)
  • Les Plaideurs, Jean Racine, 1891, French Braille
  • Le Tartufe, Moliere, 1889, French Braille
  • Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare, 1870, Philadelphia, Combined system (hybrid of Boston Line Type and Philadelphia Line)
  • Phedre, Jean Baptiste Racine, 1890, French Braille (interpoint)
  • Polyeucte, Pierre Corneille, 1888, French Braille
  • Roberts of Tientsin, Vol. 2, Bryson, 1905, London, Braille
  • Shore to Shore, Vol. 1-4, Agnes Elizabeth Caflin, Braille (interpoint)
  • Wallensteins Lager, Vol. 2, Schiller, 1888, Berlin, Braille
  • Wallensteins Tod, Vol. 2, Schiller, 1888, Berlin, Braille
  • Weak Yet Strong, Vol. 2, H.B. Harrison, Undated, Braille
  • Wilhelm Tell, Vol.1-2, Friedrich Schiller, 1895, Braille

Series 2: 1910 Donation

  • Contes Choisis, 1900, Paris, Braille
  • Dette de jeu, Maxine duCamp, 1896, Paris, Franch Braille
  • Histoire de la Litterature Française, Vol. 2, G. Vapereau, 1888, Paris, French Braille
  • La Mère de la Marquise, Vol. 1-2, Edmond About, 1892, Paris, French Braille
  • Litterature Française: Prose, Vol. 9-10, 1883, French Braille
  • Litterature Française: Vers, Vol. 1,3-10,12, 1888, French Braille

Series 3: 1915 Donation

  • Alexander Pope, Vol. 1-2, Leslie Stephen, 1900, Braille (interpoint)
  • Castle Rackrent, Vol. 1-2, Maria Edgeworth, [1903], Braille
  • Der Trompeter von Sakkengen, Vol. 1-2, 1890, Berlin, Braille
  • Histoire de la Litterature Française, Vol. 3, Marcillac, 1898, French Braille
  • Life of the Duke of Wellington, Vol. 3-4, undated,  Braille
  • Life of John Sterling, Vol. 1-4 Undated, Braille (interpoint)
  • Our Responsibilities for Turkey: Facts and Memories of Forty Years, Vol. 1-2, Duke of Argyll,
  • Persuasion, Vol. 2-4, Jane Austen, Braille (interpoint)
  • Poesie Francaise, Vol. 2, Victor Hugo,La Martin, Casimir Delavigne, 1894, Paris, French Braille
  • Sixty Years a Queen, Vol. 1-4, Sir Herbert Maxwell, 1897, London, Braille (interpoint)
  • The Shadow of the Cross at the Prison of Dryfus, Vol. 1-2, 1901, American Braille, (Helen Keller from Sister Mary, Christmas, 1901)
  • Via Crucis, Vol. 1, Abbe Perreyve, Translated by Emily Mason, 1902, American Braille, (For Helen Keller with the devoted affection of her friend, Sister Mary, June 27 28, 1902)

Series 4: Undated Donations

  • Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Vol. 1, Jean Baptiste Moliere, 1893, Braille
  • Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Vol. 1, Jean Baptiste Moliere, 1894, Braille
  • The Children’s Hour, No. 6, 1887, London, Braille
  • The Dog Tribe, 1890, Braille (interpoint)
  • Gallic War: Book 1, Caesar, undated, Braille
  • Helen Keller’s French Lessons, Braille, 6 vol. lessons 1-11, 12-16, 22-26, 27-31, 32-40, 41-46
  • The Little Duke, Vol. 1-2, Charlotte M. Yonge, 1892, Braille
  • Synonymes, Vol. 1-2, G.F. Graham, 1885, London, Braille (interpoint)
  • Tales From Shakespeare, Charles Lamb, 1892, Braille
  • When the Ship Comes Home, Vol. 1-2, Sir Walter Besant and James Rice, 1892, Braille (interpoint)

Subject headings:

  • Braille books
  • Blind–Printing and writing systems
  • Keller, Helen, 1880-1968
  • Perkins School for the Blind–History
  • Perkins School for the Blind

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