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UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


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Sign alphabet exhibition – Digiti-lingua

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 3 July 2013

Digiti-lingua, or, The most compendious, copious, facile, and secret way of silent Converse ever yet discovered.  Shewing, how any two persons may be capable, in half an hours time, to discourse together by their fingers only, and as well in the dark as the light… By a person who has conversed no otherwise in above nine Years. The figures curiously engraved on copper plates. London, P.Buck, 1698.  Anonymous 1698.

[The second illustration of the manual alphabet (fig. 2) has been cut out of this copy; it is reproduced in Quarterly Review of Deaf Mute Education, 1889, 2, between p.40-41, in an article by Farrar on the history of manual alphabets.]

digiti front pages

The anonymous author was “obliged (thro’ an unfortunate impediment) to these, or some such like methods of Converse, for now near ten years last past”.  He critiques the “pretty piece of Ingenuity, intituled Sermo Mirabilis” as slower and less easy to follow, saying “All that can be done by the directions given in Sermo Mirabilis, may be more quick, free, and easily done, by the Alphabets here delivered, and much more”.

I have photographed the whole text as a pdf here (lower quality as I am limited to 9MB ‘uploads’ unfortunately) Digiti lingua.


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