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Found 178 Resources

The natural history of Norway : containing a particular and accurate account of the temperature of the air,the different soils, waters, vegetables, metals, minerals, stones, beasts, birds, and fishes : together with the dispositions, customs, and manner of living of the inhabitants : interspersed with physiological notes from eminent writers, and transactions of academics : in two parts / translated from the Danish original of the Right Revd. Erich Pontoppidan, Bishop of Bergen in Norway, and member of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Copenhagen ; illustrated with copper plates and a general map of Norway

Smithsonian Libraries
Translated by A. Berthelson.

Title page vignettes (type ornaments).

Pagination: v. 1: xxiii, [1], 206 p.; v. 2: vii, [1], 291, [13] p.

Press figures.

Also available online.

Bound in 1 v.

Armorial bookplate: John Blackburne.

SCNHRB (formerly in the Jewett Room) has two copies; c. 2 (37 cm.) has hand colored folded map and plates 21 and 22 bound in reverse order before plate 20.


Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, east and west Florida, the Cherokee country, the extensive territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek confederacy, and the country of the Chactaws : containing an account of the soil and natural productions of those regions : together with observations on the manners of the Indians : embellished with copper-plates / by William Bartram

Smithsonian Libraries
"Philadelphia: printed by James and Johnson, 1791."

First published in Philadelphia, 1791. Cf. Sabin (v. 1, p. 513) 3870.

Pt. IV, p. [479]-520 has special half-title: An account of the persons, manners, customs, and government, of the Muscogulges, or Creeks, Cherokees, Chactaws, &c. aborigines of the continent of North America / by William Bartram.

Frontispiece portrait signed: Holloway sculpt.; map signed: T. Conder sculpt.

Signatures: a⁴ b⁸ B-2L⁸.

Final p. is blank.

Press figures.

Includes index.

Directions to the binder: p. [7] (3rd group); this leaf is wanting in SCNHRB c. 2.

ESTC (RLIN) T88530

Also available online.

SCNHRB c. 1 (39088006094742) has ms. signature on end-leaves and on t.p.: Wm. C. Bryant. This copy is a gift to SIL from Harry Lubrecht, with his collection note "OSS 6/68" on front free endpaper; with some brief ms. notes in an unidentified hand in the margins. Also with a printed bookseller's label on front paste-down endpaper: The Arthur H. Clarke Company ... Cleveland, Ohio.

SCNHRB c. 1 has an extra engraved plate inserted between p. 210 and 211, captioned "An Indian warrior, entering his wigwam with a scalp," engraved by Barlow.

SCNHRB c. 1 has old half-leather binding with decorated orange and black paper boards; gilt-ruled spine.

SCNHRB c. 2 (39088010382414), erroneously stamped "W/D DSI," has bookplate: Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Gift of Marcia Brady Tucker; with the Tucker collection's collational notes on front free endpaper and t.p.

SCNHRB c. 2 has a later half-leather binding with brown cloth-clovered paper boards; raised bands; gilt-tooled spine; marbled endpapers; top-edge gilt. Signed: Bayntun, binder, Bath, Eng.


A voyage to the South-Sea, and along the coasts of Chili and Peru, in the years 1712, 1713, and 1714 : particularly describing the genius and constitution of the inhabitants, as well Indians as Spaniards : their customs and manners; their natural history, mines, commodities, traffick with Europe, &c. / by Monsieur Frezier ... ; illustrated with 37 copper-cutts of the coasts, harbours, cities, plants, and other curiosities : printed from the author's original plates inserted in the Paris edition : with a postscript by Dr. Edmund Halley ... ; and an account of the settlement, commerce, and riches of the Jesuites in Paraguay

Smithsonian Libraries
First English edition; originally published in French, Paris, 1716.

Title printed in red and black; woodcut initials, head- and tail-pieces.

An extra plate (numbered 36) precedes pl. XXXVI; XXX omitted in numbering plates.

A leaf headed 'Directions to the binder', extra to the collation, is bound after the dedication (placement varies in copies).

Includes "A chart for the better understanding of the voyage to the South Sea ... by Mons. Frezier, I. Senex sculp" facing the t.p., and other charts and plans of harbours and cities, some by the author, some by other engravers or unattributed.

The postscript (p. [320]-322) by Dr. Halley is in vindication of his sea-chart "made to shew the variations of the compass."

Also available online.

SCNHRB copy (39088016463564) inscribed in ink on t.p. (and crossed out): Joshua Martini. Another ink signature obliterated.

SCNHRB copy stamped on t.p.: Library, U.S. National Museum, Smithsonian Institution Apr 7 1888 [ms. acc. no.] 131476.

SCNHRB copy half bound in old mottled calf and marbled boards; raised bands, title in gilt within red label label, gilt decorations; red edges.


Medicine Man's Rattle "She-Sheequoi" 2

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.


Manners and rules of good society : or, Solecisms to be avoided / by a member of the aristocracy

Smithsonian Libraries
"Contains all the information comprised in Manners and Tone of Good Society, but with considerable additions."

Also available online.


Landscapes in the Manner of Old Masters

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

George Catlin's notebook #6

Archives of American Art
Commonplace Book : 36 p. : handwritten ; 18 x 15 cm. In this notebook, Catlin categorizes his paintings by naming them: sporting scenes, amusements, landscapes, landscapes on the Missouri, and manners & customs. The reverse side of this notebook describes in gruesome detail a battle of Máh-to-toh-pa "Four Bears," second chief of the Mandan Village.
Only selected pages have been scanned.

Shin-ga-wás-sa, Handsome Bird

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Tipi Model, Painted

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.


Some of the designs on this tipi model resemble figures in the publication: Catlin, George. Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of North American Indians: The Complete Volumes I and II: Ilustrated. See Volume1, Figure 65, after p. 148, showing robe of Mato-Tope/Four Bears (Mandan), and Volume 2, Figure 311, after p. 248. Compare also the designs on the Mandan buffalo robe of Mato-Tope/Four Bears in the collection of the Bernisches Historisches Museum, Bern, Switzerland, Accession No. 1890.410.8 (see p. 191 in Maurer, Evan M., Louise Lincoln, George P. Horse Capture, David W. Penney, Peter J. Powell, Angela Casselton, and Candace Greene. 1992. Visions of the people: a pictorial history of Plains Indian life. Minneapolis: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.)

Journal of a voyage to North-America : undertaken by order of the French King : containing the geographical description and natural history of that country, particularly Canada : together with an account of the customs, characters, religion, manners and traditions of the original inhabitants : in a series of letters to the Duchess of Lesdiguieres / translated from the French of P. de Charlevoix ; in two volumes

Smithsonian Libraries
Bookseller's advertisements: [4] p. bound in v.2, following p. 380 and before index.

Includes index.

Also available online.

SCNHRB has four copies.

SCNHRB c. 1 (v.1: 39088002728657, v.2: 39088002728665) has armorial bookplate of Samuel Vaughan; inscribed in ink on front paste-downs: Wm. Vaughan.

SCNHRB c. 1 has polished sprinkled calf binding, gilt decorated spine, title in gilt within leather spine labels.

SCNHRB c. 2 (v.1: 39088012039756, v.2: 39088012039798) stamped on title pages: Bureau of American Ethnology Library 1896 [acc. no.] 5874-5.

SCNHRB c. 2 is half bound in maroon goatskin and marbled paper boards, marbled endpapers, title in gilt on spine, top edge gilt; measures 22 cm.

SCNHRB c. 3 (v.1: 39088013478508; v.2: 39088013478540) t.p. to v.1 torn at head, slightly affecting text. Inscribed at head on t.p. to v.2: E. Mason.

SCNHRB c. 3 is the gift of Harry Lubrecht; with his pencilled bookseller's markings on the 1st front free endpaper: NS 4/66.

SCNHRB c. 3 half bound in green calf and marbled paper boards, title in gilt within red leather spine label; with ticket on back paste-down of v.2: From Robert Clarke & Co. publishers & booksellers, Cincinnati.

SCNHRB c. 4 (v.1: 39088013481254; v.2: 39088013481296) imperfect: lacking map.

SCNHRB c. 4 inscribed in ink on front free endpaper of v. 1 and half title of v. 2: Henry R. Schoolcraft.

SCNHRB c. 4 has stamped on front free endpaper of v. 1 and t.p.'s: Smithsonian Institution Schoolcraft Deposit [ms. acc. no.] 170737.

SCNHRB c. 4 has occasional pencilled ms. markings in text.

SCNHRB c. 4 half bound in black sheepskin and marbled boards, gilt lettering on spine, marbled endpapers.


Memoirs of an American lady: with sketches of manners and scenery in America, as they existed previous to the revolution. By the author of "Letters from the mountains," &c. &c. ; in two volumes

Smithsonian Libraries
"Strahan and Preston, Printers-Street, London"--Verso of title pages

Pagination of each volume: volume 1. xii, 322, [2] pages; volume 2. ii [that is, vii], [1], 344 pages

Errors in paging: volume 2, page vii is misprinted as ii; volume 2, page 250 is misprinted as 50

Errata for volume 1: page [1] (2nd group) of volume 2

The final two pages of volume 1 are publisher's advertisements

Also available online.

SCDIRB copy (v. 1, 39088004416814; v. 2, 39088004416822) has pages 257-258 misbound between pages 248 and 249 of volume 2

SCDIRB copy has some handwritten annotations in pencil on the front free endpaper of volume 1

SCDIRB copy has contemporary gilt-tooled full leather bindings with gilt-lettered black and green spine labels, with marbled endpapers and edges


A new voyage and description of the isthmus of America : giving an account of the author's abode there, the form and make of the country, the coasts, hills, rivers, &c., woods, soil, weather, &c., trees, fruit, beasts, birds, fish, &c., : the Indian inhabitants, their features, complexion, &c., their manners, customs, employments, marriages, feasts, hunting, computation, language, &c. : with remarkable occurrences in the South-Sea and elsewhere / by Lionel Wafer

Smithsonian Libraries
First published: London, 1699.

Plates signed: I. Savage sculp.

Title within double rule border; side-notes.

Errors in paging.

Signatures: A-T⁸ U⁴.

"An expedition of a body of English-men to the gold mines of Spanish America, in 1702. With the many strange adventures that befel them in that bold undertaking. By Nathaniel Davis": p. 263-283.

With specimens of the Cuna language on p. 145, 148-150.

Includes indexes.

Publisher's advertisement on p. [16] (1st group) and on final p.

Sabin 100940

ESTC (RLIN) T96533

Also available online.

SCNHRB has 2 copies; both are imperfect.

SCNHRB c. 1 (39088002260347) is imperfect: the map is wanting.

SCNHRB c. 1 has bookplate: Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Gift of Harry Lubrecht.

SCNHRB c. 1 has a contemporary gilt-panel-stamped full leather binding with raised bands; housed in an archival paperboard portfolio for preservation.

SCNHRB c. 2 (39088011475852) is imperfect: all plates are wanting.

SCNHRB c. 2 has stamp on verso of t.p.: Bureau of American Ethnology Library, May 20, 1938.

SCNHRB c. 2 has a later quarter-leather binding with marbled paper boards, raised bands, gilt-tooled spine, marbled endpapers, red edges; housed in a later archival paperboard box for preservation.


Small Vermillion Pot - Painted

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
From card: "Identical to 399427 in shape and manner of manufacture. Painted flat deep blue inside, thin, muted tone enamel outside. Lower frieze white touched with red, lotus design; upper frieze 4 yellow leopards, rampart au gauche, separated by plant forms on red background. Top yellow and black, lotus form. Handle blue and white. Very well made. Good condition. Paint very dry, chipping on bottom. MUST BE PRESERVED. Ident. by collector. Similar to small pot, pl. 111, fig 252, "Hindu Religion. Customs and Manners", P. Thomas, 1956, Bombay"

Snowshoes (1 Pair)

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
From card: "Oak frame with two braces, pointed toe and heel, toe curved up. Foot netting of finely woven prepared buckskin or babiche, fastened over braces and frames, protected from chafing by pieces of cloth, heel and toe netting of finer babiche rove through the frame. Sides of frame ornamented with tufts of red flannel. Deerskin strips for fastening toe part to the boot."

These snowshoes resemble a pair illustrated in Figure 240d, after p. 138 in Catlin, George. Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of North American Indians: Volume II, 1841. Catlin identifies them as Sioux.

See U.S. National Museum Annual Report for 1894, p. 405, where these snowshoes are described and identified as a Cree type.

A journal of voyages and travels in the interiour of North America : between the 47th and 58th degrees of north latitude, extending from Montreal nearly to the Pacific Ocean, a distance of about 5,000 miles, including an account of the principal occurrences, during a residence of nineteen years, in different parts of the country : to which are added, a concise description of the face of the country, its inhabitants, their manners, customs, laws, religion, etc. and considerable specimens of the two languages, most extensively spoken; together with an account of the principal animals, to be found in the forests and prairies of this extensive region : illustrated by a map of the country / by Daniel Williams Harmon, a partner in the North West Company

Smithsonian Libraries
"Preface, by the editor", p. [v]-xxiii, signed: Daniel Haskel.

Portrait frontispiece signed: Schroeder del., Leney sc.

Errata slip.

Sabin 30404

Pilling, J.C. Bibl. Algonquian lang., p. 222

Also available online.

SCNHRB has 2 copies.

SCNHRB c.1 (39088006517536) is imperfect: lacking portions of both frontispiece and folded map, lacking errata slip..

SCNHRB c.1 has bookplate: Smithsonian Institution Libraries: Gift of Marcia Brady Tucker; with the Tucker pencilled collation notes on t.p.

SCNHRB c.1 retrieved from SILRA in 1987; transferrd from SCDIRB on 25 August 2006.

SCNHRB c.1 bound in recent maroon cloth, printed paper spine label.

SCNHRB c.2 (39088012042636) inscribed in ink on front free endpaper: Asa Davis's of Charlton County of Worcester Massachusetts U.S.A. Montreal ... Oct. 16th 1820.

SCNHRB c.2 stamped on t.p.: Bureau of American Ethnology Library 1897 [acc. no.] 7209.

SCNHRB c.2 has errata slip pasted to back free endpaper.

SCNHRB c.2 has folded map in pocket on back paste-down.

SCNHRB c.2 bound in blue buckram, title in gilt on spine, marbled edges and endpapers.


Cradle with Quillwork

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
ACCORDING TO JOHN EWERS, "ARTISTS' CHOICES," AMERICAN INDIAN ART MAGAZINE 7 (2), 1982, PP.41-42: "IN HIS BOOK CATLIN ILLUSTRATED HOW A CRADLE FROM HIS COLLECTION WAS CARRIED, STATINGS THAT 'IT WAS PURCHASED FROM A SIOUX WOMAN'S BACK, AS SHE WAS CARRYING HER INFANT IN IT' (1841(2):132). CATLIN MUST HAVE ACQUIRED THIS CRADLE DURING ONE OF HIS SUMMER TRIPS TO THE EASTERN DAKOTA OF THE UPPER MISSISSIPPI VALLEY IN 1835 OR 1836." NOTES ADDED BY C. GREENE 1/4/1999. The full reference to the illustration of the cradle is Plate 232a (, after p. 132, and it is described on p. 132 ( of Catlin, George. 1841. Letters and notes on the manners, customs, and conditions of the North American Indians: written during eight years' travel amongst the wildest tribes of Indians in North America, in 1832, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39, Vol. 2. New-York: Wiley and Putnam. SEE CATALOGUE CARD FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION. SEE ALSO PROBABLY RELATED OBJECTS E73311-2. FOR SIMILAR CRADLE SEE FIG. 168, P. 148, ILLUSTRATION OF CA. 1835 CRADLE #E27984 FROM PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM (SALEM, MA) COLLECTION, IN THE NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE: A SURVEY OF NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN ART, BY EVAN MAURER, ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO, 1977. Same cradle is also illus. and discussed pp. 144-145 in Torrence, Gaylord. 2014. The Plains Indians Artists of Earth and Sky. Skira. SEE ALSO CRADLES FIG. 35, P. 191 AND FIG. 36, P. 192 IN PEOPLES OF THE TWILIGHT, EUROPEAN VIEWS OF NATIVE MINNESOTA 1823 TO 1862, BY CHRISTIAN FEEST AND SYLVIA KASPRYCKI, AFTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY PRESS, MN, 1999. SEE COLLECTIONS LAB ACCESSION FILE FOR XEROXES OF IMAGES OF THESE CRADLES. - F. PICKERING 5-11-2001 NOTE RE PHOTOS: 2002-12327 THRU -12334 AND 2002-12349 ARE CS/CT DETAIL SHOTS OF CRADLE. Illus. p. 197 in Catlin, George, Therese Thau Heyman, George Gurney, and Brian W. Dippie. 2002. George Catlin and his Indian Gallery. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian American Art Museum/W.W. Norton & Company.

Camera-ready comic art drawing for Etta Kett

National Museum of American History
This pen-and-ink drawing produced for the Etta Kett comic strip shows a teenage girl talking to her father about her interest in sports, which coincided with her interest in star athletes. Paul Dowling Robinson (1898-1974) began his work as a cartoonist in New York in 1919. He worked on the Samson and Delia strip in 1924 and then in 1925 debuted Etta Kett, about the life of contemporary teenagers, which became a daily and a Sunday comic strip. Robinson also drew a strip called The Love-Byrds, which started out as a topper (or secondardy strip) for the Sunday page of Etta Kett. He drew both strips until his death in 1974. Etta Kett (1925-1974) began as a comic panel series about manners and etiquette. It was later redeveloped as a comic strip about a middle-class teenage girl named Etta and her high school adventures with friends and boyfriends. The main character, Etta, continued to be described as innocent and well-mannered in the face of conspicuous societal changes.

This Ancient Shark Looked Like an Eel and Swallowed Its Prey Whole

Smithsonian Magazine

Almost everything paleontologists know about ancient sharks comes from their teeth. That’s because the animals had skeletons made of cartilage, which does not fossilize as easily as bone. So researchers were surprised to find several shark skulls and an almost complete skeleton of 360-million-year-old primitive shark in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

The fossils, described in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, come from two species of sharks in the genus Phoebodus, which went extinct during the Caroboniferous Period about 299 to 359 million years ago, leaving behind no known ancestral species. Bob Yirka at reports that prior to the discovery, Phoebodus sharks were only known from three teeth.

These fossils survived because the area where the animals died was a shallow sea basin. Their bodies were covered in sediment and limited water circulation and low oxygen levels allowed them to fossilize without being destroyed by predators or broken down by bacteria.

Still, the fossils were fragile, so the team chose to examine them using a CT scan instead of chipping them out of the rock. The imaging reveals a very strange, un-shark-like creature. Yirka reports Phoebodus had a long, thin body along with a flat skull and jaw. The creature looks much more like a giant eel than a typical modern shark.

But it does resemble an atypical modern shark—the elusive frilled shark. That species is found in deep water around the world, but is little studied. Until 2004 when the creature was first video recorded, it was only known from being pulled up in fishing nets.

Tim Vernimen at National Geographic reports that the three-cusped teeth of the ancient species and the frilled shark are similar and can offer clues to how the ancient species hunted.

“The frilled shark is a specialized predator, with the ability to suddenly burst forward to catch its prey,” David Ebert at the Pacific Shark Research Center, who has studied frilled sharks, but was not involved in the new study, says. “The inward-pointing teeth then help to make sure the prey can only go one way: into its throat. Maybe Phoebodus did something similar.”

While most modern sharks use their teeth to rip prey to pieces before gobbling them up, the frilled shark—and perhaps Phoebodus—use their unique teeth to capture prey and swallow them whole, study coauthor Christian Klug of the University of Zurich tells Vernimen .

Because data on frilled sharks is almost as elusive as fossils of Phoebodus, the team also examined the jaws and teeth of the alligator gar, a species of North American fish dating back 100 million years that has a surprisingly similar mouth to the ancient shark. The gar hunts in open water, and its long jaw and flat head allows it to snap at a fishing coming from almost any direction.

It’s possible that Phoebodus developed its unique shape hundreds of millions of years earlier to hunt in the same manner. “When a certain structure or strategy is effective, there is a tendency for it to show up time and time again—both in living creatures and in the fossil record,” Justin Lemberg, gar researcher at the University of Chicago who was not involved in the study, tells Vernimmen. “While a lot has changed since Phoebodus swam the Devonian oceans, the physics of feeding in water have not.”

This isn’t the only rare shark fossil rewriting what we know about ancient sharks. Last month, researchers from the University of Chicago made a CT scan of a 2-foot-long, 335-million-year-old shark found in Scotland in 1837. They found that the early shark was a suction feeder, using mouth parts in a manner similar to modern day nurse-sharks and carp.

Modern imaging techniques are showing researchers that ancient sharks had diverse feeding patterns, similar to modern sharks.

“The quantity of data that is emerging from studies such as this is staggering,” paleontologist John Maisey of the American Museum of Natural History, not involved in the study, tells Vernimmen. “We are experiencing a renaissance of anatomy.”

Could This New Tactile Font Help People Who Lose Their Sight Late In Life?

Smithsonian Magazine

Elia Vallone once filled her days with mystery novels, newspapers and New York Times crossword puzzles. But at age 74, her vision began to fail.

Vallone had macular degeneration—a breakdown of the rod- and cone-shaped cells in the eye that convert light into electrical signals for the brain. In the worst of cases, as Vallone had, this means near total vision loss. "I couldn't stand the idea of her being shut down because she could no longer read," her daughter Elia Chepaitis told People magazine in 1988.

Vallone attempted to learn braille, to no avail. And she isn't alone. Though reliable statistics are not available for the number of braille readers (an oft-cited, but outdated figure is less than 10 percent of legally blind Americans), people who lose sight and are already out of school are thought to be less likely to learn braille than those who start young.

Because of this, Andrew Chepaitis, Vallone's grandson, wants to flip the braille script. The former equity research analyst founded the company ELIA Life Technology, which aims to create a tactile alphabet that echoes the Roman characters, tailored to people who lose their sight later in life.

The company makes the bold claim that their new system is "the world's most intuitive tactile reading system." But the upstart is stirring controversy in the braille community, with many questioning if an alternative is necessary at all.


"Reading tactilely is a bit like reading through frosted glass, so it kind of blurs together," says Chepaitis. To tackle this issue, the ELIA system—or "font" as the company calls it—houses each character in a frame to guide readers from letter to letter.

There's the circular frames that bracket the symbols for A-D and O-S, then there's the square frames of letters E-N and T-Z. Numbers all have house-shaped frames. The frame shapes not only loosely mimic the Roman alphabet (for example: O, P, and S are all pretty curvy, whereas X, Y, Z are all boxy), but they also help distinguish different segments of the alphabet.

The final product is a series of raised pictographs that, with the exception of a few select letters, look (and feel) like blocky, stylized versions of the Roman alphabet. Unlike braille, these tactile letters can be scaled to any size the user requires. The team just launched a Kickstarter campaign and plans to release a specialized HP Inkjet printer this fall that can create all manner of raised imagery.

The raised pictographs can be scaled to any size. (ELIA Life Technology)

Andrew's mother Elia Chepaitis originally designed the font in 1987 while working on a degree in human factors engineering and design. But Elia abandoned the project after earning her degree and becoming a professor of information systems at Fairfield University.

"So it just kind of sat there," says Andrew Chepaitis, who helped his mother in the early stages of development. But, he adds, "I always thought it was worthwhile."

Since founding his company in 2000, Chepaitis and his team have put the font through a battery of tests. In total, they've analyzed 175,000 responses from 350 participants, including blindfolded sighted participants and visually impaired or legally blind participants of a wide range of ages.

The latest ELIA font bears the fingerprints of these years of testing. Though the design remains similar to the one his mother created, there have been slight tweaks. For example, tiny ears sit atop the upper corners of each square frame. Though the participants can't actually feel these little ticks, it makes the square's corners feel extra sharp, preventing confusion of square and circular letters at small font sizes.

Chepaitis envisions the system can be used for everything from home labels to books. When asked about the feasibility of printing the font, he acknowledges paper documents would be quite large thanks to ELIA's oversized letters and, at the moment, expensive. But he isn't deterred.

"Braille started with one book," he says. "So we'll start with one."


Overall, responses to ELIA are mixed. Many experts draw comparisons between ELIA and other Roman character-based systems, like Moon type, which was invented by William Moon in 1845. Moon is slow to read and challenging to reproduce. And because of this, it never really took off.

"It is a very interesting concept, and it's neat that they're trying to come up with something that could be usable," says Ike Presley, National Project Manager for the American Foundation for the Blind. But he has concerns about how ELIA cites some inaccurate statistics about braille literacy.

According to ELIA, it takes 10 months to learn braille and 5 to 11 years to achieve a 23 WPM reading speed. But ten months is merely the length of a braille course at the Hadley School for the Blind, according to Chepaitis. ("We don't know what it takes," he says in conversation.) And the 5- to 11-year figure comes from the book Reading By Touch, which was written more than 20 years ago, notes Rebecca Sheffield, senior policy researcher at the American Foundation for the Blind.

ELIA also includes the striking statistic that less than 1 percent of the 8.4 million people in the U.S. with visual impairments can read braille. But this figure is calculated using results from two different surveys conducted more than a decade apart. "We do not believe there is a comprehensive study that exists that would give a good handle on the number of people who are blind who read braille," says Sheffield.

That's not to say learning braille is a breeze.

Thomas Reid lost his sight in 2002 at age 35 due to cancer. After spotting ELIA on Twitter, Reid, the host of the podcast “Reid My Mind Radio” and “2 Blind Mics,” reached out to Chepaitis to learn more about the font and potentially highlight it on his show.

Though Reid has learned braille, he emphasizes he's still a slow reader. And it took "months and months," he says. When asked about the most difficult part of learning braille, he responds with a rhetorical question: "You ever see how small those bumps are?"

Chepaitis hopes ELIA can be used for all manner of printed materials—from labels and books to dice. (ELIA Life Technology)

"If you've been reading print all your life and now you have to take in information tactilely, it's different," he says. "It takes a lot of brain power." Studying braille, he says, required intense concentration to think through each letter—and the effort often left him mentally exhausted.

"I didn't find that with ELIA," he says. Within an hour he learned the alphabet and was relatively comfortable identifying individual letters.

ELIA's tests suggest that others have a similar experience. After 60 hours of focused training, with no additional at-home practice, focus group participants achieved an average reading speed of 2.8 words per minute at 0.7 cm font size and up to nearly seven WPM with a 1.1 cm font size. The range was wide, with some participants able to process up to 25 WPM after training.

The company also tested braille readers’ learning speed in a similar situation. After the 60 hours of training, participants read standard braille (roughly 0.7 cm) at just under one WPM. With a 1.1 cm braille, participants read at 3.1 WPM, an average comparable to the small ELIA font.

To put that into context, sighted English readers process an average of 200 to 250 words per minute. Braille reading speeds widely vary from the mid-20s words per minute up to 200 words per minute for exceptionally fast readers.

But Presley worries that ELIA's max reading speeds won't line up. Since its invention by Louis Braille in 1824, braille has been optimized over the years, he says. Dot depth, size and distance are now all standardized for the fastest and accurate reading.

"You want to be able to perceive all six dots at one time under your finger without having to move [it]," says Presley. ("Jumbo braille" is slightly larger, but less common than the standard size.) But that's not the case with ELIA frames, which require a little tactile exploration.

Responding to the critique, Chepaitis argues that all readers—sighted and tactile—start one letter at a time. "No reader on the planet ever just jumped to reading words," he says.

A bookmark showing the alphabet in Roman characters, ELIA, and braille. (ELIA Life Technology)

Perhaps, in the end, speed reading isn't really the goal for ELIA. "Where I see it can make a big difference is labeling," says Reid, who largely relies on screen readers for work. He qualifies this statement, however, by expressing strong support for braille—a system that has provided hundreds of thousands of dedicated users independence at both home and work.

Many concerns about ELIA seem to stem from the idea that it would compete with or replace braille—drawing away some of the already limited resources and funding. And Chepaitis is sympathetic to the concern.

When asked about the worry, he's clear that it is not his intent. People with visual disabilities at birth "learn braille as their first font, their only font," he says. "And changing it would be disruptive." But he hopes that ELIA will be an alternative for those who did not learn braille at such an opportune age.

"At the core, [our hope is that] down the road, people will be able to choose whatever font they want," he says, likening the decision to selecting Helvetica versus Times New Roman.

As Reid notes, for now, ELIA remains fairly inaccessible without a printer, and it's unclear how affordable such devices will be. Nancy D. Miller, CEO of VISIONS services for the blind and visually impaired, agrees that the biggest challenge for the font will be attracting a large enough market to bring the cost of printing down.

But Miller adds, the system would be worthwhile, "even if a small group finds it helpful."

For Reid, the lengthy process of learning to read braille was a constant reminder of his situation. "You're adjusting to blindness. Everything is new and you're dealing with all of that at the same time," he says.

"There's a lot of emotional stuff that's going on. It's a lot of mental strength you have to put yourself through," he adds.

But perhaps ELIA—whose curves and corners hold a certain comfort in their familiarity—can help lift just a sliver of that burden.

ELIA is currently on view in "The Senses: Design Beyond Vision," an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City through October 28, 2018.

Discover Bermuda's Historic Railway Trail

Smithsonian Magazine

A yellow-bellied kiskadee calls out its piercingly melodic tune kis-kis-kisadee as blooming trees fill the air with notes of jasmine and gardenia. Wind rustles the leaves of shaggy casuarina pines, and elegant white longtail birds dart in and out of craggy rocks from which centuries-old military forts rise. As the sun sets over white buttery roofs, turquoise waters turn deep shades of pink, and tree frogs begin their evening serenade. This is Bermuda in the spring.

Bermudian singer Hubert Smith captured Bermuda's mystique well when he penned “Bermuda Is Another World” (2005), now considered the island's unofficial anthem. Indeed a world of its own, the island—located just 650 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina—has attracted visitors from the East Coast and beyond for over a century.

Today, Bermuda’s historic rails-to-trails route is one of the best ways to experience Bermuda's otherworldly nature. Built on the tracks of a railway that ran from 1931 through the end of WWII, it winds for 18 miles through the heart of the island. Ranging from paved pathways to hills and bridges, its nine sections are free of motor vehicles and ideal for pedestrians, joggers and cyclists.

Tim Rogers, a passionate Bermudian who leads academic-style walking tours, likens the trail to a charm bracelet, as it provides visitors access to dozens of hidden gems throughout the island. “I think one of the real charms of the Railway Trail is that you can really lose yourself in a good way, getting to see parts of Bermuda that the average visitor is not going to get to see,” he says.

Take a day to explore the full trail, or dive in deeper and discover some of the historic forts, hidden gardens and secluded pocket beaches tucked away along one of these four shorter sections.

North Shore from Devonshire to Flatts

Shortly after entering the trail at Palmetto Road in Devonshire, an imposing vista of Royal Naval Dockyard, site of Bermuda’s largest fort, The Keep, greets you. A center of British military power for over 150 years, the Dockyard served as a key launch point for the Royal Navy to patrol the Atlantic Ocean. It was from this port in the summer of 1814 that more than 5,000 British troops were deployed to lay siege to Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812. To the east, you can see the white sands and vibrant blue-green hues of Shelly Bay, which marks the end of this tranquil, three-mile section running along Bermuda’s North Shore.

When the railway was originally built, sections of Bermuda’s rock had to be removed, and today it’s not uncommon to find fossils and impressions of shells in the cut hillside along this section. Waterside, vestiges of Devonshire’s once robust shipbuilding industry can be spotted. “What you often see sort of standing like a sentinel is the chimney – just the chimney is left where the caulking sheds were for the ships, and occasionally a boat slip going down to the water’s edge,” says Tim. While the days of shipbuilding are long gone, the four bridges along this section are ideal places to watch cruise ships glide into Dockyard or wave to locals out for a sail.

The trail continues to Gibbons Bay, a perfect spot for a refreshing dip. To explore more of the area, continue along North Shore Road to Flatts Village. Stop into the Bermuda Aquarium for an up-close look at some of the many aquatic species that call Bermuda home, including moray eels, barracudas and parrotfish, then stop in for lunch at a favorite neighborhood restaurant like Village Pantry, which serves up healthy fare using local ingredients, or Rustico for Italian fare.

West End from Dockyard to Hog Bay Park

One of the best ways to see all that Bermuda's west end has to offer is to rent a bike from Oleander Cycles in Dockyard and travel two miles along the road to the Railway Trail in Somerset Village. Setting out from Dockyard, you’ll pass historic structures such as a former governor’s home that was later used as a hospital for the Royal Navy and a kitchen where convict-laborers sent from England in the 1830s through 1860s cooked their meals. Crossing Watford Bridge, a view of Somerset’s colorful homes greets you. “There’s every pastel shade up this hillside you could possibly imagine,” says Tim.

Travel along Mangrove Bay, counting the colors at every turn, and enter the trail at the police station. Once on the trail, you vanish into what Tim describes as a "lush, green, verdant forest." Casuarina as well as fiddlewood trees that turn an autumnal gold-copper in the spring provide cover from the sun, no matter the time of year.

Though mostly inland to start, the trail eventually offers sneak previews of the water. At brightly white-washed Heydon Trust Chapel, built in 1616, turn off the trail for a view of the Great Sound, where the America’s Cup took place in June 2017. Just south of the chapel along the trail is Scaur Hill Fort and Park. Somewhat hidden in the hillside, Fort Scaur was built in 1860 as a first line of defense for Royal Naval Dockyard. Leave your bike at the base of the hill and walk up to check out the historic cannons and picture-perfect scenery.

“Still to this day you can go by on the bus, on bike, on foot, by boat, and you would never really realize there was a fort there,” says Tim. “But when you get up to Fort Scaur, even if forts don’t do it for you, the views from the top of this fortress today are just stunning. If you have a map and a good eye, you can look down over the Somerset Bridge. You can look over what used to be the U.S. Naval Operating Base during the Second World War. You can pick out the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. Again, you’ve got great views over the whole Great Sound area, and you can get a sneak peek from up on the fort of a house that used to be rented in the early 1930s by the artist Georgia O’Keeffe.”

Once you reach Somerset Bridge, the world’s smallest drawbridge, exit the trail and head a short while along the road to Hog Bay Park, an undeveloped 32-acre preserve. Wander along meandering paths to a forest of dead Bermuda cedars, casualties of a disease that ravaged the species in 1950s. Hauntingly beautiful, their bleached wood glows white in the sun. End your bike ride with a dip or snorkel in the bay and keep an eye out for the snouted hog fish after which the bay gets its name. On the way back to Dockyard, consider turning off the trail onto Scotts Hill Road and heading to Baxter's, a family-run kitchen, for a slice of pie.

East End from Hamilton Parish to Coney Island

Hugging the northern coastline of Hamilton Parish, this section of the trail boasts breathtaking views of the ocean. “You have some very shallow waters in this area and so you get the most gorgeous pale blues, almost like a duck-egg blue color to the water,” says Tim. Pick up the trail opposite Crawl Hill gas station and arrive shortly at a bay where fishermen once corralled fish in from deeper waters. Tim likes to pause a while here on his tours. “You get these sort shabby chic little boats inside of this bay. It really sort of gives you an idea of a time gone by.” Today, the water still teems with fish, from two-inch silver minnows that flit through the water to lumbering, multi-colored parrotfish.

Elevated above the water’s edge, the trail follows a series of cuts in the rock and passes over aluminum bridges. Pause to watch boats sail by on the Bailey’s Bay bridge, or stop on one of several benches lining the trail to breathe in the wild fennel and soak up the vistas of St. George’s in the distance. Once you've reached Coney Island, stop by an old lime kiln used to create a waterproof wash for roofs. Continuing east, see the place where, until 1871, horses powered a ferry connecting St. George’s to the mainland via a rope pulley system.

To conclude your adventure, take a dip off one of Coney Island's many pocket beaches, or head off the trail to explore nearby gems of Hamilton Parish. Those looking to explore further can walk along the road to the Crystal Caves, a mesmerizing series of underground caves thought to be over a million years old, or head to Walsingham Nature Reserve, known to locals as Tom Moore’s Jungle, where 19th-century Irish poet Tom Moore wrote poems under a calabash tree. For a sweet treat, head to Bailey’s Ice Cream Parlour, which serves more than 30 flavors of homemade ice cream including rum raisin and Dark 'n Stormy, or stop by the famous Swizzle Inn. Opened in 1932, the Swizzle Inn is Bermuda’s oldest pub and is best known for its Rum Swizzle, a delicious albeit potent cocktail made with Gosling’s rum and fruit juices.

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse to Warwick Pond (& down to the South Shore Beaches)

Begin your exploration of the southern end of the island by ascending 185 steps to the top of Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. Built in 1846, it is the world’s oldest remaining cast-iron lighthouse and offers sweeping views of the island. Next, head downhill on the north side of the lighthouse to Queen’s View outlook, where in 1953 Queen Elizabeth II stopped to gaze out over the Great Sound. Take in the vibrant ribbons of green and blue crisscrossing the sound, then walk down a set of steps along a heavily forested footpath dating back to the 1600s until you reach the Railway Trail at Middle Road.

Shaded by of all manner of trees, from casuarina to palm trees and fiddlewoods, the trail passes by 20th-century houses and some of the island’s largest limestone quarries. While no longer active, the quarries offer a glimpse into how the the island's earliest buildings came to be. After several miles, you'll arrive at Warwick Pond, a protected National Trust property. Walk along its wooden boardwalk breathing in the sweet aroma of the surrounding allspice forest and keep an eye out for the birds such as cardinals and white-eyed vireos. Exit the Railway Trail here and head south along the road to Astwood Park on the coast, known for its wedding-worthy views of the South Shore.

From Astwood Park, pick up the sidewalk heading east along South Road to Southlands, one of Bermuda’s oldest estates, and explore what Tim calls “Frances Hodgson Burnett-style secret gardens.” Southlands’ previous owners had a passion for gardening and transformed the small quarries on the property with flora from around the world. Wander winding paths through wild pepper trees and the estate’s enormous Banyan tree grove, the largest on the island, before locating a set of stone pillars marking the entrance to the South Shore beaches.

Stretching for miles and ranging from wide open beaches to secluded coves, the South Shore is the stuff of postcards. “If you miss out on using the railway trail as a vehicle to get to the South Shore beaches it’s almost as if you’ve missed one of the most iconic images of Bermuda,” Tim says. Dig your toes into sugar-fine pink sand and watch waves crash up against boiler reefs located just off shore. If you’re lucky, you may even see a humpback whale or two breach in the distance.

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