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for the Blind

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The Reading Fingers, by Jean Roblin

The first authoritative biography about Louis Braille was written in French in 1951 to commemorate the centennial of Louis Braille's death. The book was written by Jean Roblin and was titled "Les doigts qui lisent: Vie de Louis Braille, 1809-1852." The next year, Roblin's book was translated into English by Ruth G. Mandalian and published by the American Foundation for the Blind in an abridged form as "The Reading Fingers: Life of Louis Braille, 1809-1852." In 1955, in response to the public's continuing interest in Louis Braille, the full book was published in English by AFB under the same title. In honor of Louis Braille's bicentennial, AFB is now making The Reading Fingers, by Jean Roblin available free online.

While researching material for the book, Roblin lived in Louis Braille's home town in Coupvray, France for several months, not far from Louis' childhood home. This proximity allowed Roblin to search the town archives and other places for relevant information from the time that Louis lived, giving the book an intimacy that comes through to this day. In addition to an English translation, "The Reading Fingers" has been translated into several languages including Spanish, Danish, and Japanese.

Jean Roblin gave a copy of his Louis Braille autobiography to Helen Keller in 1952. Below is a photograph of the actual book that Helen Keller owned and a photograph of the inner page where Roblin wrote an inscription to Helen. The book is housed at AFB's archives in New York City, and is part of the personal archives bequeathed by Helen Keller to AFB in 1968.

cover of the actual biography that Helen Keller owned

photograph of the inner page where Roblin wrote an inscription to Helen Keller

The inscription reads in French:

A Helen Keller, ce livre sur votre grand ami Louis Braille en gage de mon admiration et de mon profond respect.
Jean Roblin
22 Janvier 1952

The inscription can be translated into English as follows:

To Helen Keller, this book about your great friend Louis Braille, as a token of my admiration and of my deep respect.
Jean Roblin
22 January 1952

We hope you will enjoy reading the online edition of The Reading Fingers, by Jean Roblin.

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