Memphis Friends of the Library return 175-year-old books to Perkins

Stack of three old books

Stack of three donated books. Photo credit: Jen Hale.

March 2, 2016

The Research Library staff was surprised and excited to receive a letter from the Memphis Friends of the Library in February, 2016 generously offering to donate three books printed at Perkins in 1836, 1837, and 1839. The letter, authored by Cynthia Hawes, explains that "we recently received an unusual donation which may be of historical interest to you", rather than sell the books to raise funds, the Friends decided "we would be delighted to send them to you after their 175 year sojourn down south". 

Perkins began printing books in 1835 in Boston Line Type, a raised type created for use by the blind. These titles: Atlas of the US, Viri Romae (in Latin), and The New Testament of Our Lord. Vol. 1, represent some of the earliest books produced at the school. In fact the Atlas is inscribed "Abigail Carter's Book", who along with her sister Sophia Carter, were the very first pupils ever taught at the New England Asylum for the Blind.

Portrait of a seated woman.

Seated portrait of Abigail B. Carter, soon after leaving Perkins Institution, ca. 1845.

In 1841 Samuel Gridley Howe went on a tour of the United States advocating for support and funding for the creation of schools and books for the blind. On this trip he brought along three students, including Abigail and Sophia Carter, to demonstrate their skills and knowledge. He distributed books along his journey, and perhaps these titles were among those books!

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