Printer Friendly

From gleam of light to seedbed of a National Institute: the Canadian Free Library for the Blind, 1906-1918.

Membership, Collection, and Circulation

While the board and the librarians experienced ongoing anxiety over the finances of the Canadian Free Library for the Blind during much of its independent existence, they also took satisfaction in the steady increase in the size of the library's membership, circulation, and collection. (See table 1.) Between July 1907, the month it officially opened, and December 1918, the library's membership increased from twenty-six to 572. The latter figure probably represented about one-sixth of the blind population in Canada by 1918. The collection, which was typically counted by volume rather than title (many embossed works comprised multiple volumes), grew from seventy-five in July 1907 to approximately six thousand by the end of 1918. (91) In addition, the library held almost 1600 pieces of music by the close of 1916. Circulation figures recorded for the six months during which the library was operational in 1907 indicate the loan of 996 items. By the end of December 1918, annual circulation neared ten thousand items.

When the library was first founded, as per the "Associated Libraries" section of the Ontario Library Act, members were apparently required to pay one dollar per annum, or, as a result of a concession from the Department of Education, donate a book each year valued at such an amount, in order to remain voting members. (93) That concession no doubt accounts for the high number of donations recorded at the second annual meeting of January 1908. According to the minutes, "One hundred and fifty three volumes, of the value of One hundred and Seventeen Dollars and Seventy cents ... were contributed as donations mainly by the members themselves." In 1912, a new set of rules and regulations came into play, membership in the CFLB now available to "any blind person in Canada forwarding a certificate of good character, signed by some responsible parry, or by paying One Dollar in money." (94) The certificate--or the dollar--were required only once. Membership under these new rules entitled an individual to loan an item for a month, the borrower being subject to a fine of two cents per day on overdue items. Unpaid fines, or the failure to borrow at least one work during the year, disqualified a member from voting during the annual meeting. (95)

Throughout its history, the CFLB worked to extend its reach beyond a local membership. At the time of its inception, the membership drew largely from the Toronto area. Part of the effort of the first year included a drive to alert blind persons throughout Ontario to the existence of the library. The daily press in Toronto and Hamilton, as well as newspapers in other parts of the province, facilitated this effort through the free insertion of notices about the CFLB. Nonetheless, the librarian of the day, Bert Robinson, felt that such appeals were obviously limited because "the blind themselves do not see these notices and the sighted friends who do are not often by to tell of them." (96) By 1912 the library's focus had shifted from achieving a provincial to a national membership. In his secretary's report for 1912, Swift identified "finding blind persons in our widespread Dominion" as one of the two major difficulties of the preceding year. (Funding was the other.) He went on to cite the library's two primary methods for seeking out potential members. First, "a semi-annual article dealing with our undertaking and published in all the leading papers throughout Canada." The article included a request to those who read it to submit to the CFLB the name and address of any blind person they knew. Second, "a direct appeal to our members themselves to send in the names and addresses of their blind friends not yet members of the library." Once a name and address were acquired, the library would write the potential member with news of the CFLB and its services. Swift acknowledged that these methods had generated new members, but felt that the whole process would have been much improved if registration of the blind were to be undertaken by the provincial governments. (97)

While Ontario, and particularly Toronto, dominated the CFLB's membership throughout the 1906 to 1918 period, by the time of the merger the library did have members throughout the country. The librarian's report for 1912 indicates that, by that year, the CFLB claimed members in eight of the nine provinces, but 77-5% of its membership remained Ontario-based. (See table 2.) Of the Ontario members, 26% were located in Toronto. (98) Although no overt membership breakdown by province is available for any year after 1912, circulation figures for December 1918, the last month of the library's independent operation, were divided geographically. Of those items circulated, 59.8% went to addresses in Ontario, 10% to Quebec, 7-9% to British Columbia, 9.7% to the Maritime provinces, and 9.7% to the Prairie provinces. (See table 3.) Toronto circulation represented 29.2% of the Ontario figure. (99) If one compares the annual circulation for Ontario in 1912 against the monthly circulation for the province in December 1918, one finds a decrease from 82.6% to 59.9%. This difference suggests a significant increase in members from outside the province during the intervening years. In his annual secretary and librarian's report for 1918, Swift claimed annual circulation for Ontario that year to be "nearly 54 per cent." (100)

The monthly report of December 1918 also recorded a small amount of circulation outside of Canada, something that would not have been anticipated based on the regulations set out in 1912. In December 1918, Newfoundland claimed 0.3% of circulation, and the United States 2.8%. In another report penned by Swift in 1930, he recalled that readers in Newfoundland had approached the CFLB as early as 1913 to request access to the library's holdings. The prohibitive expense of circulating the books as far away as Newfoundland, during an era when it was not yet part of Canada, led the library to lobby the Canadian and Newfoundland governments for a bilateral agreement allowing the free postage of embossed-print materials between the two dominions. Its effort was successful and an agreement took effect I January 1916. (103) Although a similar postal agreement with the United States did not exist during this period, the CFLB may have decided to circulate its holdings south of the border in a spirit of reciprocity since some US libraries for the blind, such as the New York State Library at Albany, made their embossed-print works available to Canadian residents. (104)

The CFLB's collection included embossed books, periodicals and music. Organizations in the United States and Great Britain represented the most significant suppliers of these publications. (105) The substantial commitment to music no doubt arose from the fact that musical ability was strongly encouraged among the blind in the early twentieth century: learning to sing and play musical instruments were skills that could be acquired for pleasure and entertainment; for many, music also offered a vital means of generating income --as musicians, music teachers, or piano tuners. An early order for the collection included requests for works by (or possibly about) Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, and Mendelssohn. (106) One member revealed in a letter of 1911, "In my occupation as a Music Teacher, the Library has provided me with music which would otherwise have been beyond my reach. It supplied me with literature which every musician knows how to appreciate, and which is so necessary to successful music teaching." (107) That same year, another member similarly confirmed the value of the musical holdings: "I have not only found the reading of the books useful, but also the raised type music and instruction for teaching." (108)

In building the collection's textual holdings, emphasis was placed on adult reading matter, since the school libraries served children. Even the circulating library at the OSB showed the latter tendency, if the description of one CFLB member was accurate: "Of course, there is the circulating Library at the Blind Institute [in Brantford], but most of its readings are in the educational line, and would not be much pleasure to those outside the school." (109) The CFLB had some works associated with children (e.g., Grimm's Fairy Tales), but its general range of books included biography, fiction, history, poetry, religion, science, travel, and reference for adult readers.

The CFLB archives indicate that catalogues of the library's holdings were regularly produced, but none is preserved in the archives. Insight into specific titles purchased for the library is thus generally limited to two order forms for the American Printing House for the Blind (APHB, est. 1858, Louisville, Kentucky). These documents list orders made in the years 1907, 1908, and 1910. The forms tend to lack authors' names and shortened versions of the titles have been used, so identifying the works is not always possible, although some, such as Shakespeare's plays, are obvious. For 30 October 1907, only two items appear, both works of poetry: The Deserted Village and Sauland Other Poems. For 1908 and 1910, the orders were more substantial--about sixty titles in the first case, and slightly over forty in the second. (110) The size of these two orders provides a sense of the range of purchasing in the earliest years of the library. In both years, one finds:

1) reference and practical works (e.g., "Handbook Punctuation" [1909], "How to Knit & Crochet" [1909], "Wait's [New York] Point Primer" [1910]);

2) classic and more popular literary works (e.g., "Pilgrim's Progress" [1909], "Twelfth Night" [1909], "Gray's Elegy" [1909], "Early English Ballads" [1909], "Jungle Book" [1909], "Middlemarch" [1910], "David Copperfield" [1910], "The Virginian" [1910]); and

3) non-fiction (e.g., "Bacon's Essays" [1909], "Conciliation [with the] Am[erican] Colonies" [1909], "Gladstone" [1909], "McMaster's Hsty U. S." [1910], "Napoleon" [1910], "Leading Facts French Hst'y" [1910], "Emerson's Essays" [1910]).

Fiction may have dominated the library's textual holdings from early in its history. About half the titles ordered from the APHB in 1910 comprised classical literature and more popular fiction. Early the following year, one member praised the library as "a source of much comfort, entertainment and instruction," one that had relieved "the long tedium of the lonely isolated hours." All the same, he wished "that we did not have so much light reading[. A] good tale is a source of recreation to the mind, but we need often something more solid. I would like to have some of Ruskins works in the Library. [A]lso more of Van'Duke's [sic] etc. I am one of those who like[s] to 'dig deep.[']" (111)

If the second glimpse into purchasing patterns provided by the librarian's annual report of 1918 reflects the general practice of the preceding eight years, then fiction was clearly prominent in the CFLB's collection. Of the 759 books acquired in 1918, the proportions broke down as follows: Fiction: 490 (64.56%); Biography: 82 (10.8%); General: 59 (7-77%); History: 34 (4.48%); Poetry: 30 (3.95%); Reference: 30 (3.95%); Science: 9 (1.19%); Travel & Description: 9 (1.19%); Religious: 8 (1.05%); Shorthand: 6 (0.79%); and Uncategorized: 2 (0.26%). Although these figures suggest that only a small number of religious works may have been acquired by the library, one patron who was a minister still found enough works to support his vocation. In a letter of 1911, he described the library as lending "inexpressible assistance ... in my work as a minister of the Gospel, since it supplies the raw material with which such men must work." (112) The accountant's report for 1907 also reveals that a "Point Print Bible" supplied by the American Bible Society was one of the earliest works purchased for the library. (113)

Most books in the collection were in English, but a portion of them were in French, German, or Italian. This is not surprising, given that Swift held a bachelor's degree in modern languages and is said to have been fluent in seven languages. In addition, language, like music, was an area of study in which the blind were seen to have strong potential to excel. As a result, language training was to be encouraged, particularly since it also enhanced possibilities of employment. In 1913, Swift noted in a letter that "French books, both in Braille and [New York] Point, are now in constant demand, as we have a number of French Canadian readers, as well as others who are studying or reading French." (114) For French-Canadian members, the CFLB may have been attractive for two reasons: first, l'Institut Nazareth did not operate a circulating library until 1914; second, even when it did begin to do so, the CFLB's holdings may have had offerings that would not have been found in a library of Catholic affiliation. In 1914, observing the Roman Catholic Church's Index Librorum Prohibitorum would have been an issue for l'Institut Nazareth when building its circulating collection.

Swift's letter of 1913 went on to reveal, "Our books in other languages are also largely used, especially by studious persons in and out of schools and colleges. I myself have opened a department of mail instruction in French, German, Italian and Latin and have two or three pupils who report progress very satisfactorily to themselves and to me." (115) It is not clear whether Swift offered these instructional services for free, simply considering them an integral part of the library's work, or charged a fee. Whatever the situation, these language courses--like the teaching of embossed writing systems to the blind noted earlier--constituted important extension work on the part of the organization. No doubt such auxiliary services contributed to the CFLB's developing perception of itself as an appropriate entity out of which to nurture the future CNIB. The library's decision to serve as a supplier of embossed writing materials and equipment at cost represented another significant form of extension work. In one of his later secretary's reports, Swift revealed that the library engaged in "supplying blind persons in many parts of the Dominion with Braille paper, typewriters, Braille and New York Point slates, and playing-cards." (116)

The multiple and competing systems of embossed type active in North America during the first two decades of the twentieth century ensured that the CFLB found it inherently challenging to build its collection and serve its membership effectively. (See table 4.) A breakdown of its holdings by type system in December 1914 provides insight in this regard. That year, whereas all 1579 pieces of its sheet music were in New York Point, the textual holdings ranged through a myriad of type systems. New York Point dominated, claiming over 75% of the titles, while British Braille accounted for over 10%. (117) Archival evidence indicates that the CFLB actively purchased titles in multiple dot systems; however, line-letter volumes were most likely donated since they would have been produced in systems of embossed type that had already faded in popularity by the time of the library's inception. In 1914, line-letter volumes represented 5.67% of the CFLB's holdings, but it is quite likely that this category encompassed more than one form of line type (e.g., Boston Line Letter, Kneass Line Letter).

Until the end of 1912, much of the purchasing was directed toward titles in New York Point. Bert Robinson was most familiar with this system, (119) and it is the one to which he introduced Marion. Since the membership of the CFLB in its earliest years was predominantly Ontarian and New York Point was the system with which they were most familiar, it made sense to focus on it. Swift's secretary's report of 1912, however, signalled an intention to acquire more titles in British Braille and American Braille in the coming year, arguing that "several hundred blind readers would thus be reached and benefited, who are now outside the influence of the C.F.L.B." (120) If the library wished to extend its reach beyond Ontario, it was imperative to start acquiring more Braille titles. American Braille was not taught in Canada, so the impetus was toward British Braille. It had been taught at the HSB exclusively for twenty-five years, and the English-language school for the blind established in Montreal in 1911 also opted for it. The breakdown of holdings for 1914 indicates that British Braille was indeed preferred over American. (See table 4.) A letter from late October 1914 reveals that most of that advance occurred during that year, noting besides that the acquisitions included "much fiction of the most fascinating description." (121)

By the time Swift produced his secretary's report for 1912, the CFLB may have not only begun to recognize the limits of what it could still acquire in New York Point but may also have realized that it would soon need to take a stance in the rising "Uniform Type" debate. In a circular letter issued in January 1915 the library claimed that it had, by then, almost exhausted the catalogue of the American Printing House for the Blind. At that time, the American operation produced its books exclusively in New York Point. The circular also stated that the library planned to focus more and more of its future budget on titles printed in British Braille, the major international source of which was the NIB in the United Kingdom. In addition, this letter identified the CFLB as having "placed itself formally on record as favoring British Braille." In other words, it had decided to be an advocate for British Braille in the debate over a uniform dot system for English. In its effort to facilitate what it called "the great Braille revival that is sweeping over the continent," the library offered its members British Braille alphabets and primers free of charge. "We do not intend, on this account, to neglect readers of any other system," a second letter dated the same day assured, "but we shall henceforth bond our energies to the building up of a complete library of British Braille works, and to the inducing of the Canadian Blind to learn to read them." (122) The decision to take the side of British Braille had been decided internally at least half a year earlier. In May 1914, Swift had privately revealed the library's intention to Philip E. Layton, founder of the MAB, who applauded this decision in a letter to another of the CFLB's board members: "I rejoice to note ... that the Canadian Free Library is going to be one of the first to give its support to British Braille," wrote Layton. "I see no other solution of the vexed problem. This will mean then that blind people all over the world will have one alphabet and one system of reading [in English], the same as their seeing brethren." (123)

Two heated letters sent to Ontario's Department of Education in late 1914, the first by Principal Gardiner of the OSB and the second by Swift at the CFLB, reveal that the library's advocacy of British Braille over New York Point was not appreciated by Gardiner, who also questioned the necessity of the CFLB itself. Gardiner apparently was consulted about the CFLB after the minister received a request from the library for two thousand dollars per annum to support the purchase of British Braille books. In responding, Gardiner argued that the CFLB was redundant in light of the OSB's own circulating library and suggested that it represented "needless duplication of labour and of expense" and an unnecessary extra burden on taxpayers, who already supported the OSB and its circulating library. He took particular exception to the CFLB's criticism of New York Point, and its claim that it was losing ground to British Braille. In his view, British Braille, with its adherence to Louis Braille's original dot assignments for its base alphabet code, fell short of the merits of both American Braille and New York Point, both of which had adopted the "frequency of occurrence" principle in designing their base codes. He also favoured New York Point for its variable base length, which removed the limitation of sixty-three symbols associated with a rigid three-by-two cell. Finally, in a postscript that responded to the library's suggestion that the amount of British literature was limited in the New York Point system, Gardiner countered with a catalogue that would reveal "there is no scarcity of books by British authors in New York point print." (124)

After he received a copy of Gardiner's letter to the Ministry, Swift responded at length to the principal's several criticisms. To the suggestion of the library's redundancy, he estimated that, in the eight years of its existence, the CFLB had placed "in the hands of the Canadian blind ... more than four times as many books" as the OSB's circulating library had in the sixteen years since its creation. On the matter of expense, Swift stated that "this splendid achievement has been brought about with the expenditure of less than $3000.00 of money directly chargeable to taxation." Swift met with scorn the suggestion that the two libraries competed unnecessarily. "The more libraries of this nature there are, provided the number of blind readers justifies them, the better for the country as a whole." He then went on to ascribe education as well as entertainment to the library's activities since it was committed to teaching tactile reading to those who lost their sight in adulthood, or who had failed to achieve adequate tactile literacy as children. "It is the business of this library to hunt out such unfortunates and prove to them that they can learn and to provide them with the means of doing so," he asserted.

Swift's letter also reveals a preference for British Braille over either of the American point systems for reasons cultural as well as technical. "For both New York Point and American Braille[,] the United States are the only source of supply. The result of this," he argued, "is that every graduate of the Ontario School for the Blind goes out into the world the product, not of a British institution of learning, but of one whose very breath of life is drawn from beneath the Stars and Stripes. The contention that many works by British authors are available in New York Point is a mere quibble, for it is the study of history which, more than anything else, moulds a national patriotism." He argued that there were only two historical "works of value" in the American point systems (Green's Short History of the English People and Montgomery's History of England), a stark contrast, he felt, to the many historical and other works reproduced that had a strongly American focus (e.g., Dodge's Bird's Eye View of Our Civil War, McClung's Boone and Other Pioneers, Riis's The Making of an American). In concluding his discussion of the cultural limitations of works in the two American systems, he queried, "are such works conducive to the creation of a healthy Canadian spirit? And are not our blind boys and girls as much entitled to love their own country and the empire it belongs to as the American blind are to love the United States?" While not an educator in the conventional sense, Swift did hold a master's degree in education and may well have felt he had the authority to speak to the educational limitations of works available in the two American point systems.

Swift also countered Gardiner's technical criticisms of British Braille. Louis Braille's system for devising the alphabet, he explained, "is built up systematically, so that a person having once mastered the first ten letters, can form the rest according to rule. [New York] Point has nothing but purely arbitrary characters." He also insisted that British Braille had established standards for things like punctuation, whereas "[New York] Point has a standard for very little except confusion and uncertainty." As an example, he indicated that in the CFLB's collection he could find New York Point volumes that used four different methods to signal a period. On the issue of the length and expense of British Braille versus New York Point books, Swift noted that, with the adoption of revised British Braille [i.e. Grade Two British Braille] early in the twentieth century, the length of British Braille volumes had typically become shorter compared to those of New York Point. He estimated that inter-pointed (125) Grade Two British Braille contained 14 percent more text per sheet than New York Point. In addition, while the average cost of a British Braille volume now stood at approximately seventy-three cents, a New York Point volume typically cost about eighty. Even greater savings resulted, of course, because the British Braille volumes now contained more words per volume. Finally, Swift attributed better production values to the British Braille volumes he acquired from Britain in comparison to those New York Point volumes he purchased from the United States. "[British] Braille works are a pleasure to read, so carefully are they printed, so correct and with such perfect dotting," he asserted. "[New York] Point works are bristling with mistakes of all kinds, while the dotting is generally very poor. Modern language texts in [New York] Point are a disgrace, while we have yet to find a serious error in any work of this nature coming to us from Britain." (126) Swift's commentary about "dotting" most likely referred to the clarity of the embossed dot when it emerged from the press. Less strongly embossed dots would wear out more quickly under the passage of fingers over the text; once that occurred, a volume had to be removed or replaced, which added to operational costs.

There is no evidence to suggest that the Ministry of Education acceded to the CFLB's special request of 1914 for extra funds to purchase British Braille works. However, in 1917, the NIB did materially aid the library's efforts to increase its British Braille holdings by donating five hundred dollars worth of books and music. (127) In 1918, the library's acquisition of English-language titles in Braille (probably both British Braille and the new American Grade One and a Half Braille) was almost ten times greater than that of New York Point, new production in the latter system having been officially abandoned the previous year in the wake of the US decision to use the same base alphabet code for point printing as the British. On the other hand, the library's circulation of New York Point volumes in 1918 still exceeded that of Braille by a ratio of more than 5:4. (128) Nonetheless, circulation of even four volumes of Braille for every five or so of New York Point suggests a significant expansion in the CFLB members' reading of Braille. The increase in Braille books in the library's holdings no doubt attracted new members residing in other provinces, who would have been most familiar with British Braille; moreover, the increased circulation of Braille can also be attributed to the library's efforts to teach it to those who had originally been trained in one of the American dot systems.

How did members feel about the CFLB? Only about a dozen letters from members appear in the archives, so that question remains difficult to answer with authority. With the exception of Kitty Curry's letter from 1914, the letters that do exist date from January 1911 and were prompted by a request from Swift for testimonials about the value of the library. He wanted to use these testimonials as evidence in a package directed to the Ontario Minister of Education, who he understood had been advised by unspecified persons that the CFLB had "no right to be further supported by the Government of this province" because Ontario was already supporting the circulating library of the OSB. (129) Although not written spontaneously, the letters do convey that the CFLB meant a great deal to some of its members. For one female patron in Toronto, "[The library] has been to me a very great benefit indeed, having brought to my knowledge literature containing many useful subjects which otherwise I would not have acquired, besides the great pleasure it is to have something to read during leisure hours which helps to bear with my affliction instead of brooding over it." (130) In a similar vein, another stated, "Speaking for myself, the C.F.L.B. has been of the greatest service, both as regards instruction and entertainment that I might never otherwise have enjoyed. I should be very sorry indeed if the Library were compelled, for lack of funds, to bring its circulation to an end." (131)

Most of the testimonials were brief, but Enod M. Loop of Aylmer, Ontario, sent a two-page, handwritten letter in response. "I have much reason to feel a strong personal interest in the C.F.L.B.," she wrote:
   Like a flood of sunlight to chase away the clouds, it came into
   my life. First it was just my strong wish for "something to read"
   that made the Library attractive to me ... The something to read
   which the Library provided proved a source of much helpful

   I found myself planning new ways and means of financial
   support, and my friendly correspondence with the Library helped
   me to solve many of the problems with which I was confronted.

The letter further revealed that, in addition to facilitating Loop's efforts as a music teacher, the library provided materials "of valuable assistance" for her church and Sunday school work. Moreover, this letter also stated that the CFLB had offered, from time to time, some "remunerative occupation" in point printing. (132) The letter reveals nothing further about this remunerative activity, but it is possible that Loop engaged in some local production on behalf of the library.

The CFLB's Local Production of Embossed-Print Materials

Although it acquired the lion's share of its collection from foreign sources, the Canadian Free Library for the Blind did produce a small amount of embossed-print materials locally, an area of endeavour that would grow after its merger with the CNIB in 1919. Educational materials, short fiction, and, to a very modest degree, Canadiana appear to have been its focus.

American and British publishing houses for the blind supplied the CFLB with most of its embossed-print materials. However, what could be acquired from these organizations did not match what was available to the majority of sighted Canadians. International publishing houses for the blind were not in a financial position to produce embossed-print works in the same amount or diversity as the ink-printed materials of conventional publishers, who issued their works for a much larger market. Transfer of an ink-print text into embossed print was, in many ways, an act of translation, with much of the attendant expense that this implies.

For a Canadian library for the blind such as the CFLB, acquisitions were further complicated by the meagre amount of materials by Canadian authors or on Canadian subjects available from international suppliers. If a work of Canadiana did make it onto the list of a foreign publisher, then it certainly could be purchased, and one example of this appears in the CFLB archives: the library's 1910 order to the American Printing House for the Blind included a request for "Heart Ancient Wood," (133) which was likely Charles G.D. Roberts's Heart of the Ancient Wood, published in both the United States and Canada about a decade earlier. The American publication of Roberts's book helps explain why the APHB issued it.

In Canada, some domestic production of embossed-print works occurred at the HSB and the OSB, both of which owned the requisite stereotyping and printing equipment by early in the twentieth century to produce publications in multiple copies. The focus of the production at the schools, however, was on textbooks for classroom use rather than works of general adult appeal. In his 1914 letter to the Ministry of Education, Principal Gardiner commented that the OSB's libraries included "hundreds of volumes of Ontario Public School Readers and other school books produced in our own printing office." (134) In turn, some annual reports of the HSB note recent issues from the school's press: in 1901, for example, the school produced embossed editions of The Practical Speller and Practical Method for the Pianoforte, and in 1906, Commercial Arithmetic, Topics in Canadian History, and The Sight Singing of Music. (135) (The reproduction of music-related texts for classroom use reinforces the emphasis on musical training for blind children.) No reference to acquisition of embossed-print titles produced at the HSB or OSB appears in the archives of the CFLB, but it is certainly possible that some embossed works were acquired from the two schools.

The CFLB's own production, with the exception of its catalogues, seems to have concentrated on reproducing, in embossed form, single copies or very short-run editions. During the first two years of the CFLB's existence, Bert and Marion Robinson responded to the needs of a blind undergraduate student by transcribing textbooks only available in print. Marion Robinson read aloud from each text while her husband embossed it, possibly by hand using a slate and stylus specifically designed for point writing, but more likely mechanically using one of the typewriter-like devices (e.g., the Kleidograph [for New York Point], the Braille Writer, or the Perkins Brailler) that had become available after 1890 for point writing. An invoice from December 1907 for printing and/or binding services of a number of items suggests that Bert and Marion Robinson also engaged in other forms of local production in the first year: short stories from American and British magazines (Ainslee's, Munsey's, and The Strand), Pope's The Rape of the Lock, and Keats's Ode to a Nightingale. (136) The reproduction of Pope and Keats may have related to the needs of a university student, but the transcription of short stories probably responded to a more general demand for popular and contemporary fiction. The reproduction of short stories, a highly popular genre at the turn of the twentieth century, simply may not have been taken up by the American and British publishing houses of embossed print. After her husband's death, Marion Robinson taught herself New York Point in part to continue this effort. For the duration of her librarianship, she "copied short stories from magazines to augment our stock." (137)

A second and innovative effort to increase the library's holdings of short stories emerged in 1910, when the CFLB introduced a semi-annual story-copying contest. Swift's secretary's report of that year indicates that these contests had a two-fold purpose: first, "to provide the Library with a constant supply of modern high class fiction," and second, to improve the grasp of CFLB members on issues of composition and spelling. "It is a woeful fact that many, perhaps most, of the graduates of our Ontario Institution for the Blind are very weak in respect to orthography, punctuation, syllabication, paragraphing, and the orderly arrangement of thought when written," Swift stated in his report. Noting there had been a demonstrable improvement in these areas between the first and second contests of 1910, he added, "Our library is intended to be educational in its activities and this is the first active step in that direction; for no person can enter upon such a contest without feeling himself called upon to pay close attention to the literary form and the mechanical arrangement of the piece he is copying, thus being led to an observation of the laws of composition." (138) Swift does not reveal the number of submissions to these contests nor does he indicate how many entries were sufficiently well done to become part of the collection. None of these efforts in local production, either by the Robinsons or contestants, appears to have involved any consideration of copyright.

How many years the transcription contests continued remains unclear since no reference is ever made to them again in the reports of the secretary or librarian. However, Marion Robinson's librarian's report of 1922 notes that only six short stories copied from magazines came into the collection that year. (139) This small number might suggest that the semi-annual contests did not ,last very long. On the other hand, a literature and music statement of the whole collection dated December 1914 reveals 143 titles (or 220 volumes) of hand-copied literature in New York Point among the library's holdings. (140) That figure constituted 13.5% of all "literature" titles in the holdings, or 6.15% if counted in volumes, a noteworthy number in both cases.

In 1917, the CFLB made a move to undertake local production activities in a more formal and systematic way. That year the library purchased twenty-five Braille machines and established its Transcribing Department. (141) Over the next two years, Swift set about training several dozen women in the principles of Braille and the operation of the machines. Retrospectively, he would view the venture as a failure, the effort having produced too few individuals with a strong level of accuracy and an enduring commitment to the work. He stated unequivocally in 1923 that "the total amount of acceptable transcription received from that source was so small as not to justify the initial labour and time expended in instruction." (142) Unfortunately, no details are provided about what was reproduced or how much of it was deemed of sufficient quality to add to the collection.

A year after the launch of the Transcribing Department came the library's realization of a long-standing goal: the establishment of a printing and publishing operation. Interest in acquiring a press dated back to about 1910; indeed, one of the collecting objectives set before Arthur Gate had been to raise "a fund (an endowment) large enough to enable us to establish a publishing department for the purpose of producing chiefly Canadian literature in raised type." (143) Because of Gate's resignation, the financial difficulties that followed it, and the increasingly cramped conditions at the TPL location, the library shelved the project for several years. (144) Nonetheless, the board quietly retained the objective, which also had some traction with members. In early 1911, for example, one patron commented in a letter, "if we had a printing press of our own, we could do much better in the matter of books, for we could print our own standard publications. Books written by our own Canadian and British authors, and so be not altogether indebted to our American friends for our literature." (145) As for the board, in a letter to the Board of Governors at the University of Toronto about leasing the College Street property in late 1916, a representative of the library revealed, "There is no space [at the current location] for the installation of a proper printing department for the preparation of works by Canadian authors, of which our blind readers are at present deprived since almost the whole embossed book supply comes from the United States or Europe." (146) Then in the autumn of 1916, on the eve of the library's relocation, the Women's Musical Club of Toronto took up the cause. By 2 May 1917 this club had raised sufficient funds for the library to order a stereotype-maker and press from Cooper Engineering & Manufacturing of Chicago. American labour difficulties delayed the arrival of the equipment until late the following December. (147)

In 1918, the library officially launched its printing and publishing operation. A library catalogue was more than likely one initiative of the first year since another motivation behind acquiring a printing press was to produce the runs of its embossed-type catalogues in house. Less ephemeral in nature were two editions, in 1918, of the Ontario Public School Primer, both for what were then external clients: the first was embossed in Grade One British Braille for the CNIB's Home Teaching Department; the second was done in Grade One and a Half Braille for the OSB, relations with the school having improved with the arrival of Superintendent Race. (148) The stereotype-maker especially designed for embossed printing seems to have proved satisfactory, but Swift revealed in a letter to Race that he found the lever press wanting. By the end of the year, he had begun making impressions using an older, established form of technology previously adapted by the blind for printing: the clothes wringer--an Ajax wringer, to be exact. To make an impression, the stereotype was placed on a sheet of galvanized iron, which was then overlayed with a sheet of Oxford paper and a rubber blanket three-sixteenths of an inch thick. When the whole passed through the wringer, the blanket protected the dots. Swift chose the Oxford paper because it was fairly thin but tough, printed dry, and, once shellacked, held the dots admirably. (149) A gift of a ton of paper from the Provincial Paper Mills to the library supported the production of the OSB edition of the primer. (150)

Beyond the two editions of the primers, which were logical to produce using printing equipment since they required more substantial print runs, no book-length work of Canadiana appears to have issued from the CFLB's press in 1918. Nonetheless, a concern for publishing a broader range of Canadiana may have manifested itself. In future years, Swift would recall that, during its first year in operation, the library's press issued some "materials of interest to book users," an effort that evolved in 1919 (after the CFLB's merger with the CNIB) into "the dignity of a true magazine," which took the name of the Braille Courier. Given that Swift, who would serve as the future magazine's editor, "laid it down as a principle" that the Courier "should be as Canadian as possible," it is "probable that a portion of the "materials of interest to book users" issued by the CFLB in 1918 were specifically Canadian in content. (151) Indeed, perhaps he produced these materials as a way of testing the demand for precisely such a periodical, one which he now had the capacity to produce in a print run large enough to provide all members of the library with their own copy of each issue.


The Canadian Free Library for the Blind emerges from the archival record as a vital, early-twentieth-century venture in ameliorating the conditions in which Canada's adult blind lived and worked. In 1906, almost half a century after the first elementary school for the blind was founded in the British North American colonies, services to support the adult blind remained scarce, with formal training in tactile literacy for those who lost their sight in adulthood largely confined to the efforts of the HSB's Home Teaching Society. In the case of blind Canadian adults already capable of reading embossed print, purchasing reading matter was often impossibly expensive while borrowing it from institutions remained limited to three sources: the tiny holdings in some public libraries, the limited collections of circulating libraries operated as auxiliary services by the Canadian schools for the blind based in Ontario and Nova Scotia, and those American libraries for the blind that were willing to send materials to Canada. Further limits on access ensued as a result of the lack of uniformity in the embossed type used by the English-speaking world, a complexity particularly felt in Canada, where the OSB had adopted New York Point and the HSB British Braille.

When Bert Robinson called a meeting of blind women and men in Toronto in November 1906 with the ambition of bringing forth an independent, circulating library focused on the reading needs of the adult blind of Canada, he acted out of a conviction that the most appropriate people to improve the conditions of the blind were the blind themselves. As a community, he believed, blind Canadians knew their own needs, struggles, and aspirations best, and as such were ideally placed to establish and operate communal organizations tailored to address their particular concerns. In the case of the CFLB, during its first decade the institution functioned with a Board of Management exclusively made up of blind men, although its second librarian, Marion Robinson, and all of its librarian's assistants prior to 1918 were sighted women. In the face of extraliterary issues raised on an ongoing basis by its membership, the library chose to interpret its mandate broadly. Over the course of its independent existence it launched an array of auxiliary services, including provision, at cost, of instruments of communication used by the blind, literacy training in embossed print, and classes in modern languages and typewriting, as well as more general employment services. By midway through the First World War, with its nascent ambitions affirmed by the two newly blinded servicemen now on its board, the CFLB self-identified as a national entity concerned with the needs of blind Canadians throughout the country. It felt that it could serve as a base from which to develop and launch a multi-faceted national institute for the blind whose reach, impact, services, and vision would be much greater than the library's.

Even so, the heart of the story of the CFLB between 1906 and 1918 remains that of any library--the bringing together of readers with the materials that they want to read. Although the voices of those readers do not emerge in great number from the archival record, the statistics available do reveal a steady increase in membership over a dozen years. From a base of twenty-six when it officially commenced in July 1907, the membership of the CFLB rose to 572 by December 1918, a twenty-two fold increase and a figure that probably represented about one-sixth of the blind population in Canada at that time. Ontario, the province with the most blind, claimed the largest part of the library's circulation, but the CFLB's efforts to reach westward and eastward, particularly from 1912 onward, proved sufficiently successful that by 1918 annual circulation outside of Ontario stood at about 55 percent. To facilitate these national ambitions, the CFLB's third librarian, Sherman Swift, expanded the library's holdings of British Braille, the point system that he valued most for both technical and cultural reasons and the one most used by blind Canadians outside of Ontario. With the support of the board, Swift officially aligned the CFLB with the advocates of British Braille in the contemporary debate over a standard embossed type for English. Once the library took up this position, it offered its members free British Braille alphabets and primers so that those originally trained in other systems could teach themselves the British system and gain access to reading materials only available in British Braille. Affirmation of the library's decision came in 1917, when the American Association of Workers for the Blind rejected both New York Point and American Braille in favour of Grade One and a Half Braille, whose base alphabet code emulated that of the British system.

The archives reveal an eighty-fold increase in the size of the CFLB's holdings over its dozen years, but the precise contents of its collection remain elusive. The existence of multiple forms of embossed type obliged the library to acquire some titles more than once; others would have been available in only one format as a result of the production choices of suppliers. The library's broad rubrics for its holdings were "music" and "literature," with the former referring to musical scores and the latter encompassing periodicals, short stories, and books that ran the gamut from self-help and religion through history and biography to poetry and fiction. Fiction, including classic literature as well as contemporary, popular works, probably dominated the textual holdings through much of the period under examination. If one extrapolates from Swift's comments of 1914 to the minister of education--that is, the letter in which he noted the variance in historical titles made available by American versus British publishing houses for the blind--then in all likelihood American rather than British history held a more prominent role in the collection in the library's early years, with British history gaining ground from 1913 onward with the increased momentum toward purchasing British Braille titles from the NIB.

Neither the United States nor the United Kingdom could be relied upon for a steady flow of Canadian-authored works, however, and so CFLB members remained largely "deprived" in this regard. Heightening the library's holdings of Canadiana does not appear to have motivated the early efforts in local production by Bert and Marion Robinson, or influenced the introduction of the transcription contest. Nevertheless, concern about this lack manifested itself as early as 1910, when the idea of a printing and publishing department, chiefly to produce Canadiana, first emerged. Though never formally articulated, this preoccupation may also have factored into the founding in 1917 of the Transcribing Department, which seems to have been established to engage in singular and spontaneous acts of local production rather than in stereotyping works for larger print runs. The CFLB issued two editions of the Ontario Public School Primer from its new press in 1918 and some unspecified "materials of interest to book users," but overall at the time of its merger with the CNIB its publishing ambition remained in a nascent state.


En novembre 1906, un groupe d'hommes et de femmes aveugles de Toronto creerent la Canadian Free Library for the Blind (CFLB). Durant la douzaine d'annees de son existence, cerre association vit l'adhesion de ses membres s'accroitre de 2 200% et ses collections de 8 000 %. Cependant la CFLB faisait face en meme temps a des difficultes financieres, a un personnel precaire de bibliothecaires, a des problemes d'emplacement et a de longs debats quant a decider du meilleur systeme d'ecriture en relief a adopter. La CFLB debuta modestement comme institution locale mais ne tarda pas a regrouper en 1918 des membres a l'echelle nationale de la Colombie-Britannique a Terre-Neuve (y compris une poignee d'Americains) meme si les Ontariens constituaient le groupe le plus nombreux. L'une des voies par lesquelles la CFLB prit son expansion se revela etre l'acquisition de livres rediges au moyen d'un systeme d'ecriture tactile autre que le New York Point (NYP), lequel etait en usage a l'epoque a l'Ontario School for the Blind mais non ailleurs au Canada. Au plus fort des debats sur la question, la CFLB se fit eventuellement le defenseur du braille britannique en fournissant aux utilisateurs du NYP tous les outils requis pour s'initier au systeme. Ainsi la CFLB edita dans les annees qui suivirent un nombre limite de documents tactiles. En 1918, elle acquit de l'equipement en vue de produire des imprimes en relief tout en se fixant comine objectif de diffuser les livres canadiens qui n'etaient pas encore a la disposition des aveugles. Cette activite d'editeur allait s'averer des plus prometteuses lorsque la CFLB fusionna en 1919 avec l'Institut national canadien pour les aveugles.

(1) I would like to express my thanks to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, as well as the History of the Book in Canada project, an initiative that was funded by a SSHRC Major Collaborative Research Initiative Grant. Both of these organizations provided vital early support and encouragement toward the realization of this article. I would also like to thank the Library History Interest Group of the Canadian Library Association, which kindly invited me to deliver a much shorter version of this paper at one of its annual meetings.

(2) Kitty Curry to the CFLB, 13 November 1914, Canadian National Institute for the Blind Papers (hereafter CNIB Papers), Library and Archives Canada (hereafter LAC), MG 28, series 1233, vol 3, file 3-13D.

(3) The CFLB Minute Book, 1906-1918, is located in LAC, CNIB Papers, microfilm reel M-3795. These seven files are all located in LAC, MG 28, 1233, CNIB Papers: five files marked "Canadian Free Library for the Blind" (files 3-13a to 3-13e) are located in volume 3; one file marked "Canadian National Library for the Blind" is found in volume 5; and one file marked "E.B.F. Robinson" is located in volume 85. Some references to the CFLB appear in other files in the collection, but most of the contents of such files focus on the period after 1919.

(4) For a detailed overview of reading and writing systems for the blind, see Gabriel Farrell, "Fingers for Eyes," chapter 8, and "Battle of the Types," chapter 9, in The Story of Blindness (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956) 93-104; and Elizabeth M. Harris, In Touch: Printing and Writing far the Blind in the Nineteenth Century (Washington: National Museum of American History, 1981).

(5) That is, twenty-seven out of forty-six American schools. Statistic cited in La Cerise, "Blind Librarian Wants to Help Our Blinded Soldiers," [1915], reprinted in Our Blind Soldiers and the Canadian Free Library for the Blind (Toronto: The Bryant Press, 1916), 8.

(6) Farrell provides the following explanation of Braille's "principle of logical sequence": "a line made up of the first ten letters of the alphabet, using the upper two rows of dots or symbols, forms the basis for succeeding rows. The second line, beginning with the eleventh letter, k, is an a, with the addition of the left-hand dot in the third row of the cell, and so on through t. The remaining letters of the alphabet, plus enough symbols to make the third row often, are formed by adding the two dots of the third line of the cell, and the fourth row is made by adding the lowest dot on the right-hand side of the cell" (Story of Blindness, 99). The "symbols" to which Farrell refers were originally the accented letters in French.

(7) See Robert Irwin and Ruth E. Wilcox, A Comparative Study of Braille Grade One and a Half and Braille Grade Two (New York: American Foundation for the Blind, 1929).

(8) "Superintendent's Report for 1861," Third Annual Report of the Society for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, and the Blind for the Year 1861 (Toronto: 1862), 8; "Library for the Blind," Sixth Annual Report of the Upper Canada Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and for the Blind for the Year 1864 [Hamilton, 1865], 6. The latter report indicates that 175 books composed the library, including works of history, geography, biography, hymns, and scripture, as well as maps. Moon's system is described in the report as "an embossed type for the Blind, so perfect in its form, and uniform in its arrangement, that the blind man or woman of seventy years of age may, with ease, feel its characters, and learn to read."

(9) Susanne Commend, Les Instituts Nazareth et Louis-Braille 1861-2001: Une Histoire de Coeur et de vision (Sillery, QC: Les editions du Septentrion, 2001), 45.

(10) In its early years, the school was also known as the Halifax Institution for the Blind. In 1884, its name was legally changed to the Halifax School for the Blind.

(11) See, for example: Fifth Report of the Board of Managers of the Halifax Asylum for the Blind, 1875 (Halifax, 1876), II; Seventh Report of the Board of Managers of the Halifax Asylum for the Blind, 1877 (Halifax, 1878), 10; Thirteenth Report of the Board of Managers of the Halifax Institution for the Blind, 1883 (Halifax, 1884), 10.

(12) Sixteenth Report of the Board of Managers of the Halifax School for the Blind, 1886 (Halifax, 1887), 11-12.

(13) Seventeenth Report of the Board of Managers of the Halifax School for the Blind, 1887 (Halifax, 1888), II.

(14) Euclid Herie, Journey to Independence: Blindness--The Canadian Story (Toronto: Dundurn, 2005), 25-26.

(15) Undated newspaper article by Margaret R. Chandler, Archives of Ontario (hereafter AO), RG-2-204, Ministry of Education, Ontario School for the Blind, box 5, file "Scrapbook 1977-78," p. 262; and Verne Edquist, ed., Centre Walk: Former Students of the Ontario School for the Blind (The W. Ross Macdonald School) Recall School Memories (North York: Devondale Publishing, 1993), 12, 20.

(16) W.B. Race to S.C. Swift, 10 February 1926, AO, RG 2-204, Ministry of Education, Ontario School for the Blind Papers, box 2, file "CNIB-S.C. Swift Chief Librarian 1925-26/52)."

(17) Raised Print Books for the Blind / Origin and History of Embossed Printing / Interesting Facts about the Circulating Library of the School for the Blind, Halifax, N.S. (Halifax: Halifax Printing Co., 1895), 10.

(18) Herie, Journey to Independence, 35, citing Hansard for 1 April 1898.

(19) Mary G. Thomas, Royal National Institute for the Blind, [+ or -]868-r956 (Brighton, Sussex: printed at Brighton Herald, 1957), 25-26.

(20) "History," NLS: That Ali May Read ..., Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), last modified 17 September 2012,, "Service Prior to 1931."

(21) Thirtieth Annual Report of the Board of Managers and Superintendent of the Halifax School for the Blind (1900), 34.

(22) All national population figures are drawn from "Section A: Population and Migration," Historical Statistics of Canada, Statistics Canada, last modified 22 October 2008,, table A2-14: "Population of Canada, by province, census dates, 1851 to 1976." Statistics for the blind in 1891 are drawn from Census of Canada 1891, Bulletin No. 16, The Insane; The Deaf and Dumb; and The Blind (Ottawa: Department of Agriculture, 1893), 16, 21.

(23) E.B.F. Robinson, The True Sphere of the Blind (Toronto: William Briggs, 1896), 250.

(24) "Infirmities of the People for the Year 1911 as Enumerated Date of First of June," Bulletin XVII, Fifth Census of Canada (Ottawa: 1913), 2.

(25) E.B.F. Robinson, The True Sphere of the Blind, 166.

(26) Ibid., 187-88.

(27) Ibid., 191-92.

(28) E.B.F. Robinson to Hon. W.J. Hanna, 8 May 1905, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13e.

(29) "Schools and Services for the Blind in Canada," pp. 10-12, CNIB Papers, vol. 13, file "History of the Work for the Blind."

(30) "History," MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, 2009, http://www.mabmackay. ca/modules/pages/index.php?id=4&langue=en&menu=4&sousmenu=6.

(31) Other names on the incorporation papers included: James Common, Robert J. Coughlan, Benjamin Crew, Charles R. Clarke, Robt Gaunt, E.W. Hermon, A.H. Johnston, M. Kenning, Carl B. Lloyd, J.E. Shaughnessy, Alfred Thurlow, F. Thurlow, and A.H. Wilson. CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13a.

(32) S.C. Swift, "A Brief Account of the Establishment, Growth and Aims of the Canadian Free Library for the Blind," 1916, p. 7, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13c.

(33) Mrs. E.B.F. (Marion) Robinson, "The Beginning of the Library for the Blind in Canada," p. 2, CNIB Papers, vol.3, file 3-13E.

(34) "Second Annual Report of the Canadian Free Library for the Blind [1907]," p. 6, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(35) Marion Robinson, "The Beginning of the Library for the Blind in Canada," 3.

(36) E.B.F. Robinson, The True Sphere of the Blind, 192.

(37) Marion Robinson, "The Beginning of the Library for the Blind in Canada," 4.

(38) Minutes of 13 January 1908, Minute Book of the CFLB.

(39) "The Canadian Free Library for the Blind," hand dated 14 September 1911, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(40) Marion Robinson, "The Beginning of the Library for the Blind in Canada," 4.

(41) S.C. Swift to Hon. R.A. Payne, 31 January 1911, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13e.

(42) "Treasurer's Report for the Year 1912," CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13A.

(43) S.C. Swift to Hon. R.A. Payne, 31 January 1911, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, File 3-13E.

(44) Marion Robinson, "The Beginning of the Library for the Blind in Canada," 5.

(45) "Minutes of Special Meeting," 10 January 1916, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13D.

(46) CFLB (no author) to Lieutenant-Governor, New Brunswick, 10 August 1916, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, File 3-13C.

(47) "Dr. Sherman Charles Swift, LL.D.", pp. 1-3, CNIB Papers, vol. 49, file 5.

(48) F.W. Johnston to S.C. Swift, 1 March 1916, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13D.

(49) Swift, "A Brief Account of the Establishment," 4-5. Note that Marion Robinson's account said that Swift took over as librarian in August 1913 rather than September.

(50) For information about the original organization of the library, see "Supplement to Secretary-General's Report for First Quarter, 1917," vol. 3, file 3-13A; and S.C. Swift to E.A. Baker, 31 May 1922, vol. 5, file 8, both in CNIB Papers.

(51) Minutes of 13 January 1908, Minute Book of the CFLB.

(52) La Cerise, "Blind Librarian Wants to Help Our Blinded Soldiers," 13. In his year-end report for 1918, Swift noted that the Government of Alberta had granted, that year, two hundred dollars in two instalments. Swift, "Report of the Secretary-General and Librarian of the Canadian National Library for the Blind for the Year Ending Dec. 31, 1918," p. 2, CNIB Papers, vol. 5, file 8.

(53) S.C. Swift to L.M. Wood, 11 May 1917, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13B.

(54) Minutes of 10 January 1910, Minute Book of the CFLB.

(55) F.W. Johnston to Messrs. Perkins, Ince & Co., 23 November 1914, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13C.

(56) S.C. Swift to H. Champion, 27 November 1914, CNIB Papers, vol. 8, file "Dominion Tactile Press 1913-1938."

(57) DTP titles already published, or projected for publication, in 1914 were, in whole or in part, Paul and Virginia, The Deserted Village, Gray's Elegy bound with John Gilpin's Ride, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Enoch Arden, Rape of the Lock, and The Rosary. "Analysis of Letter from Dominion Tactile Press to a Prospective Contributor, Dec. 23, 1913," CNIB Papers, vol. 8, file "Dominion Tactile Press 1913-1938."

(58) Ibid.

(59) E.A. Baker to D.A. McArthur, 20 September 1937, MG 28, 1233, CNIB Papers, LAC, vol. 8, file "Dominion Tactile Press 1913-1938."

(60) AO, RG 2-204, Ministry of Education, Ontario School for the Blind, box 1, file "Dominion Tactile Press Limited 1918-1922."

(61) Swift to Champion, 27 November 1914; and Swift, "General Report for 1912," pp. 1-2, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(62) F.W. Johnston to [newspaper editor], 9 November 1914, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13D.

(63) "No. 5. What Canada Should Do," CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13D.

(64) "Treasurer's Report for the Year 1912," CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13a.

(65) "The Blind and the War News," CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13D.

(66) E.B.F. Robinson, The True Sphere of the Blind, v.

(67) For a detailed account of this phenomenon, see Serge Marc Durflinger, Veterans with a Vision: Canada's War Blinded in Peace and War (Vancouver and Toronto: University of British Columbia Press, 2010), 2-8.

(68) La Cerise, "Blind Librarian Wants to Help Our Blinded Soldiers," 13.

(69) Swift to A.H. Colquehoun, 14 December 1915, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13B.

(70) Swift to Hon. R.A. Payne, 31 January 1911, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(71) Durflinger, Veterans with a Vision, 37.

(72) Ibid., 38.

(73) CFLB (no author) to the lieutenant governor, Nova Scotia, 21 October 1916, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13C.

(74) Andrew Macphail, Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War 1914-1919: The Medical Services (Ottawa: King's Printer, 1925), 280.

(75) Desmond Morton, When Your Number's Up: The Canadian Soldier in the First World War (Toronto: Random House of Canada, 1993), 193, 256; and Desmond Morton, Fight or Pay: Soldiers' Families in the Great War (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2004), 135-36, 138.

(76) Durflinger, Veterans with a Vision, 42, 53.

(77) Herie, Journey to Independence, 50.

(78) Canadian accounts of St. Dunstan's can be found in James H. Rawlinson's memoir, Through St. Dunstan's to Light (Toronto: Thomas Allen, 1919); and Marjorie Wilkins Campbell, No Compromise: The Story of Colonel Baker and the C.N.I.B. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1965), 14-28.

(79) For an account of the experiences of blinded service personnel sent to St. Dunstan's versus those returned to Canada immediately after hospitalization for rehabilitation and resettlement, see Durflinger, Veterans with a Vision, 24-32 and 36-47.

(80) Ibid., 37-40.

(81) Campbell, No Compromise, 43.

(82) Swift, "Report of the Secretary-General of the Canadian National Library for the Blind for the Year Ending Dec. 31, 1917," p. 3, CNIB Papers, vol. 5, file 8.

(83) [CFLB] to Board of Governors, University of Toronto, 23 November 1916, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13C.

(84) Swift, "Supplement to the Secretary-General's Report for the First Quarter, 1917," 10 April 1917, p. 2, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13A. In No Compromise, Campbell indicates the reduction was from five hundred to one hundred dollars, but I have opted for Swift's figure since his comment was written at the time while Campbell's probably came from a recollection later.

(85) Swift, "Report of the Secretary-General of the Canadian National Library for the Blind for the Year Ending Dec. 31, 1917," 10. References to donations by the various women's groups appear throughout the report.

(86) Campbell, No Compromise, 42-44; and Herie, Journey to Independence, 42-43.

(87) Swift, "Report of the Secretary-General of the Canadian National Library for the Blind for the Year Ending Dec. 31, 1917," 17-18.

(88) Ibid., 18.

(89) Ibid., 15-16

(90) Campbell, No Compromise, 46-48; Herie, Journey to Independence, 55-57; and Durflinger, Veterans with a Vision, 57-63.

(91) Minutes of 13 January 1908, Minute Book of the CFLB; Swift, "Librarian's Annual Report 1918," CNIB Papers vol. 5, file 8; and "Activities of the Canadian National Library for the Blind," CNIB Library, Toronto, IRC, file "CNIB Library--History."

(92) This table has been compiled using the Minute Book of the CFLB and the following items from the CNIB Papers: "Some Particulars Re Canadian Free Library for the Blind Incorporated Under Ontario Libraries Act, Nov. 9th, 1906"; "The Report of the C.F.L.B., 1907"; Marion Robinson, "Librarian's Report for Year Ending Dec. 31, 1912" (all in vol. 3, file 3-13E); "Literature & Music Statement," 22 December 1914; Swift to R.A. Payne, Minister of Education, [1914], p. 2 (vol. 3, file 3-13D); Swift, "Librarian's Annual Report 1918" (vol. 5, file 8); "1913 Stock Statement"; Marion Robinson, "Librarian's Report for Year Ending Dec. 31, 1911"; Marion Robinson, "Librarian's Report for Year Ending Dec. 31, 1910" (vol. 3, file 3-13A). The following sources were also used: "Activities of the Canadian National Library for the Blind," 12 March 1919, CNIB Library, IRC, file "CNIB Library--History"; and La Cerise, "Blind Librarian Wants to Help Our Blinded Soldiers," 10. The use of "Approx." in the table signals a year when the figure did not come from a year-end report but from another source that was close to the end of the year.

(93) Swift to E.A. Baker, 31 May 1922, p. 2, CNIB Papers, vol. 5, file 8.

(94) Minutes of 13 January 1908, Minute Book of the CFLB.

(95) "Rules and Regulations of the Canadian Free Library for the Blind, Toronto, Canada," 25 October 1912, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13D.

(96) E.B.F. Robinson, "Second Annual Report of the Canadian Free Library for the Blind," CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(97) Swift, "General Report for 1912," p. 1.

(98) Marion Robinson, "Librarian's Report for Year Ending Dec. 31, 1912."

(99) Percentages are based on Swift, "Report of December 1918," CNIB Papers, vol. 5, file 8.

(100) Swift, "Report of the Secretary-General and Librarian of the Canadian National Library for the Blind for the Year Ending Dec. 31, 1918," CNIB Papers, vol. 5, file 8.

(101) Marion Robinson, "Librarian's Report for Year Ending Dec. 31, 1912."

(102) Swift, "Report of December 1918."

(103) Swift, "Report of the Chief Librarian, 1929-1930," CNIB Library, IRC, file "CNIB Library--History."

(104) Swift to R.A. Payne, Minister of Education, [1914], p. 4, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13D.

(105) Swift to P.C. Layton, 15 December 1913, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13B.

(106) Order form for the American Printing House for the Blind dated 8 February 1908, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13B.

(107) Enod M. Loop to Sir, 23 January 1911, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(108) Eva Johnson to S.C. Swift, 26 January 1911, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(109) Lillie Leonard to Friend, 22 January 1911, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(110) See order forms for the American Printing House for the Blind dated 8 February 1908 and 3 June 1910, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13B.

(111) M.D. Scott to Sir, 20 January 1911, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(112) Letter of A.T. Barnard, [c. January 1911], CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(113) "Second Annual Report of the Canadian Free Library for the Blind," [1907], p. 8, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(114) Swift to P.C. Layton, 15 December 1913, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13B.

(115) Ibid.

(116) Swift, "Report of the Secretary-General of the Canadian National Library for the Blind for the Year Ending Dec. 31, 1917," 2.

(117) "Literature and Music Statement," 28 December 1914, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13D.

(118) "Literature and Music Statement," 28 December 1914.

(119) E.B.F. Robinson, The True Sphere of the Blind, 145.

(120) "General Report for 1912," 2-3.

(121) F.W. Johnston to Friend, 30 October 1914, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13D.

(122) Circular letters from the library dated 1 January 1915, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13D.

(123) P.E. Layton to F.W. Johnston, 21 May 1914, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13D.

(124) H.F. Gardiner to C.W. James, Secretary, Department of Education, 4 November 1914, CNIB Papers. vol. 2. file 3-13D.

(125) Inter-pointed printing referred to Braille that was printed on both sides of the page. Printing on the back side of the sheet was offset so as not to interfere with the dots already embossed on the front.

(126) Swift to Hon. R.A. Payne, Minister of Education, [c. Nov. 1914], CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13D.

(127) Henry Stainsby to S.C. Swift, 30 March 1917, vol. 3, file 3-13C; and S.C. Swirl to Mrs. Leach, 22 May 1917, vol. 3, file 3-13B, both in CNIB Papers.

(128) Swift, "Librarian's Annual Report 1918," CNIB Papers, vol. 5, file 8.

(129) Swift to Payne, Minister of Education, 31 January 1911, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(130) Maud Young to Swift, 30 January 1911, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(131) H.G. Valiant to S.C. Swift, 24 January 1911, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(132) Enod M. Loop to Sir, 23 January 1911, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(133) Order form for the American Printing House for the Blind, 3 June 1910, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13B.

(134) Gardiner to James, 4 November 1914, 2.

(135) Thirty-First Annual Report of the Board of Managers, and Superintendent, of the Halifax School far the Blind [1901], (Halifax, 1901), 16; and Thirty-Sixth Report of the Board of Managers, and Superintendent, of the Halifax School for the Blind [1906], (Halifax, 1906), 14.

(136) Invoice from E.N. Kane & Co. to CFLB, 14 December 1907, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, 3-13E.

(137) Marion Robinson, "The Beginning of the Library for the Blind in Canada," 3.

(138) Swift, "General Report of the Canadian Free Library for the Blind for 1910" pp. 1-2, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13E.

(139) Marion Robinson, "Librarian's Report for Year Ending Dec. 31, 1912."

(140) "Literature and Music Statement," 21 December 1914.

(141) Swift, "Report of the Secretary-General of the Canadian National Library for the Blind for the Year Ending Dec. 31, 1917," 10.

(142) Swift to F.W. Johnston, 3 April 1923, pp. 3-4, CNIB Papers, vol. 16, file "Library Dept. 1920-26."

(143) Swift, "General Report for 1912," 2; and Swift to Champion, 27 November 1914, 2.

(144) [CFLB] to Board of Governors, University of Toronto, 23 November 1916, CNIB Papers, vol. 3, file 3-13C.

(145) M.D. Scott to Sir, 20 January 1911.

(146) [CFLB] to Board of Governors, University of Toronto, 23 November 1916.

(147) Swift, "Report of the Secretary-General of the Canadian National Library for the Blind for the Year Ending Dec. 31, 1917," 9.

(148) Swift, "Report of the Secretary-General of the Canadian National Library for the Blind for the Year Ending Dec. 31, 1918," 1.

(149) Swift to W.B. Race, 5 December 1918, AO, RG 2-204, Ministry of Education, Ontario School for the Blind, box 1, "file 5--CNIB--S.C. Swift, Chief Librarian, 1917-1924."

(150) Swift, "Report of the Secretary-General and Librarian of the Canadian National Library for the Blind for the Year Ending Dec. 31, 1918," 2.

(151) Swift to Mrs. F.C. Lorway, 28 September 1928, CNIB Papers, vol. 12, file "Library Depart.--General, 1927-1930."

Janet B. Friskney *

* The author of New Canadian Library: The Ross-McClelland Years (2007), Janet B. Friskney has also edited Thirty Years of Storytelling: Selected Short Fiction by Ethelwyn Wetherald (2011) and served as associate editor to volume 3 of the History of the Book in Canada (2007). In recent years, she has held executive positions with the Bibliographical Society of Canada, including that of president from June 2011 to May 2013.
Table I. CFLB End-of-Year Annual Statistics, 1907-1918. (92)
A dash indicates that no figure has been located.

Year End           Membership          Collection          Circulation

1907 (July--Dec)       59        441 volumes               996 items
1908                   --                  --              3150 items
1909                   109       1138 volumes              3537 items
                                 413 pieces of music
1910                   109       1485 volumes              3511 items
                                 442 pieces of music
1911                   133       2290 volumes              3599 items
                                 776 pieces of music
                                 (145 v. destroyed)
1912                   182       2913 volumes              5971 items
                                 1088 pieces of music
                                 (103/123 v. destroyed)
1913                   --        3675/3677 volumes         6716 items
                                 1340 pieces of music
1914               Approx. 310   3580 volumes              Approx.
                                 (1059 titles)             >7000
                                 1579 pieces of music      items
1915               Approx. 416   Approx. 4257                  --
1916                   476       5200 volumes                  --
                                 (1200-1400 titles)
1917                   --                  --                  --
1918                   572       Approx. 6000 volumes      9717

Table 2. CFLB Membership and Circulation for 1912:
Breakdown by Province (101)

                        Number of Members     Circulation
Province                      (/182)         (/5971 Items)

British Columbia             3 (1.6%)          45 (0.8%)
Alberta                      4 (2.2%)          152 (2.5%)
Saskatchewan                 6 (3.3%)          202 (3.4%)
Manitoba                     6 (3.3%)          208 (3.5%)
Ontario                    141 (77.5%)        4930 (82.6%)
Quebec                       a (6.0%)          278 (4.7%)
Nova Scotia                  7 (3.8%)          122 (2.0%)
New Brunswick                4 (2.2%)          34 (0.6%)
Prince Edward Island          0 (0%)             0 (0%)

Table 3. CFLB Circulation for December 1918:
Breakdown by Province/Region (102)

Province            Circulation (/723 Items)

British Columbia            57 (7.9%)
Alberta                     33 (4.6%)
Saskatchewan                9 (1.2%)
Manitoba                    28 (3.9%)
Ontario                    432 (59.8%)
Quebec                      72 (10%)
Maritimes                   70 (9.7%)
Newfoundland                2 (0.3%)
United States               20 (2.8%)

Table 4. CFLB's Textual Holdings by Embossed-type System,
December 1914 (118)

Type System         Number of Titles (/1059)

New York Point             798 (7535%)
British Braille            108 (10.2%)
Line Letter                60 (5.67%)
French Braille             45 (4-25%)
Moon Type                  26 (2.46%)
American Braille           12 (1.13%)
Italian Braille             8 (0.76%)
German Braille              2 (0.19%)
COPYRIGHT 2012 Bibliographical Society of Canada
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:p. 213-237
Author:Friskney, Janet B.
Publication:Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 22, 2012
Previous Article:From gleam of light to seedbed of a National Institute: the Canadian Free Library for the Blind, 1906-1918.
Next Article:"Crying over spilled milk": a publishing history of Sam Steele's forty years in Canada.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters