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  Deaf History, Europe

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1620: Juan Pablo Bonet, the first book on the subject of manual alphabetic signs (ES)

1620: Juan Pablo Bonet, the first book on the subject of manual alphabetic signs (ES)

In 1620, Juan Pablo Bonet (1573–1633) published the first book on the subject of manual alphabetic signs for the deaf.

It wasn’t until 1885 that it was published in England as Simplification of the letters of the alphabet and method of teaching deaf-mutes to speak. This gave rise to a wider interest in the education of the deaf in Europe.

Bonet’s method was first to teach the written letters; then teach the hand signs for the letters; then teach the pronunciation of the letters. Bonet comments that the pupil learns to lip-read by himself and the teacher must not take credit for this.

Bonet was of the first teachers to devise and record in print a sign alphabet, and his system has had some influence on modern sign languages. However, he was also typical of his age in believing that signing was only a step towards an ideal of oralism rather than a valid form of communication in itself.

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