Welcome to “Touch This Page!”

Listen to Welcome to “Touch This Page!”

How are you reading these words?

Looking at a screen? Feeling braille? Listening to a voice?

“Touch This Page!” asks you to think differently about reading. Each station offers a 3D reproduction of a page in a style invented for sighted and blind readers in the 1830s and 1840s. Unlike braille, these pages of raised text use or lightly adapt the Roman alphabet to make the words more easily legible to visual readers. We invite you to use these pages to reflect on how you read as you learn about early attempts to make reading more accessible. Ask yourself: what might it mean for reading—and knowledge—to be universally accessible? What would that look, feel, or sound like?

On each page of the exhibition, you will find a 3D reproduction along with a label describing the object and a label describing the people who used and designed these pages. If you have a 3D printer, you will find printable files and instructions for printing these pages in a menu on the right. At the end of the exhibition, please record your thoughts using the "Share Your Response" tab, which you will find at the top of each page if you are using a computer or through the drop-down menu in the upper right corner if you are using a smartphone.

The sketchfab interface below contains additional hidden links picked up by screen readers. The starting element is a link and ending element is the text "to rotate."

Description of the New Testament Page

In 1833, Samuel Gridley Howe, the first director of the Perkins School for the Blind, published the first full, tactile version of the Christian scriptures. Although Howe knew of Louis Braille’s system, he and other US educators worried braille would isolate blind individuals. Wanting books blind and sighted individuals could share, Howe created a compressed—but legible—alphabetic font. This system of raised-letter printing—Boston Line Type—was the most successful system of its kind in the United States.

Transcription: “he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw aught. 24. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees walking. 25. After that, he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored.”

Benjamin Bowen, Author

Benjamin Bowen was one Perkins’s first pupils. Having lost his sight as an infant, Bowen arrived at Perkins in 1832 when he was thirteen. Perkins had opened its doors just one year earlier. Bowen left Perkins in 1838 and tried several professions, including teacher and church organist. Eventually, he found most success as an author. Bowen became one of a new generation of blind and low-vision authors. He published several books of autobiographical essays and lectures. In one essay, Bowen described the value of books in raised letters like this New Testament: 

“The books which the blind can read themselves, and especially the Bible, furnish benefits that can never be calculated. They enable them to pass usefully many an hour which would else be spent in ennui and listlessness, or in repining at a fate to which they ought to be resigned.”