The Evolution of Braillewriters, 1899-1940

Picht braille-writer (c.1900), CSTM artifact no. 1987.0263.001

Picht braille-writer

The invention of the braillewriter would inspire many more similar inventions from the late nineteenth century onward. More so, this innovation would come on a global scale. The Picht braillewriter, for instance, would emerge from Germany only seven years after the Hall. The braillewriter was developed by Oscar Picht, director of the Provincial School for the Blind in Bromberg, Germany, and later director of the State Blind Institute Berlin-Steglitz. The Picht brailler was first manufactured in 1899 by the company B.R. Herde and F.R. Wendt, and continued production until the 1930s.[1]

The Picht brailler featured here was built approximately 1900. It is made of black metal with a painted wood keyboard, also black except for the six wooden keys that are painted white on their top surface. The Picht is smaller and more compact than the Hall braillewriter, with an asymmetrical shape that flares out toward the keyboard. “Picht” is painted in gold lettering on the front, above the keys. Like the Hall, it consists of six keys on each end that progress from long to short as you move to the centre of the board, where a single oval space bar juts outward in between. Similarly, the three left keys correspond to dots one, two and three in a braille cell and the three on the right to keys four, five and six.The Picht has a metal gooseneck, also like the Hall, which arches over the top of the machine and down to where the paper feeds through the rolls. This gooseneck has six small holes in the end, mirroring the six-dot pattern in braille.[2]    

Blista brailler, CSTM artifact no. 1987.0267.001

Blista brailler

Other braillers that would come later include the Blista brailler, also developed in Germany. The Blista was in many ways similar to the Picht except slightly larger and made from green metal and rubber rollers. This particularly model comes attached to a hard black case with a rectangular, slanted top that fastens to the base by means of a silver-plated latch to make for more convenient transport.[3]

Anderson & Sorenson brailler, CSTM artifact no. 1987.0260.001

Anderson & Sorenson braille-writer

The Anderson and Sorenson braillewriter was produced in Coppenhagen, Denmark, which was similar in size to the Picht, and made almost entirely of black cast iron. Like many other braillers, however, it would still retain the six wooden key design, with the space bar in between and jutting out from the others. It is square in shape, more so than either the Picht or the Hall, but with a similar metal gooseneck curving up and back over the rollers.[4]

American Foundation for the Blind braille-writer, CSTM artifact no. 1987.0264.001

American Foundation for the Blind Braille-writer

The braillewriter from the American Foundation for the Blind that is also apart of the CSTM collection was produced in New York by the typewriter company L.C. Smith and Corono Typewriters Inc.  It is rectangular and made from grey metal, with six uniform rectangular keys, and a metallic rectangular space bar in between that is raised but aligned with the other keys. The words “American Foundation for the Blind, Inc., New York, N.Y.” are written above the keys, with the metal gooseneck reaching over the rollers as with numerous other designs.[5]  

Like the Hall braillewriter, all of these braillewriters now held with the CSTM collections were donated to the museum by Roland Galarneau in 1987 who obtained them from Mrs. Fernande Tremblay, a woman who was likely associated with the L’institut Nazareth of Montreal,the school where Galarneau received his primary education.[6]



[1] Picht braillewriter, artifact no. 1987.0263.001, Collections Supplementary Report, Canadian Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, Ontario

[2] The Picht braillewriter and some of the supplementary information can be retrieved through the museum’s online collections here:

[3] Blista braillewriter, artifact no. 1987.0267.001, Collections Supplementary Report, Canadian Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.

[4] Anderson and Sorenson braillewriter, artifact no. 1987.0260.001, Collections Supplementary Report, Canadian Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.

[5] American Foundation for the Blind braillewriter, artifact no. 1987.0264.001, Collections Supplementary Report, Canadian Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.

[6] Hall braillewriter, artifact no. 1987-0262-001, Collections Supplementary Report, Canadian Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.