New York Point

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New York Point
New York Point alphabet.jpg
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  • New York Point
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New York Point is a braille-like system of tactile writing for the blind invented by William Bell Wait (1839–1916), a teacher in the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind. The system used one to four pairs of points set side by side, each containing one or two dots. (Letters of one through four pairs, each with two dots, would be ⟨:⟩ ⟨::⟩ ⟨:::⟩ ⟨::::⟩.) The most common letters are written with the fewest points, a strategy also employed by the competing American Braille.

Capital letters were cumbersome in New York Point, each being four dots wide, and so were not generally used. Likewise, the four-dot-wide hyphen and apostrophe were generally omitted. When capitals, hyphens, or apostrophes were used, they sometimes caused legibility problems, and a separate capital sign was never agreed upon. According to Helen Keller, this caused literacy problems among blind children, and was one of the chief arguments against New York Point and in favor of one of the braille alphabets.

New York Point competed with the American Braille alphabet, which consisted of fixed cells two points wide and three high. Books written in embossed alphabets like braille are quite bulky, and New York Point's system of two horizontal lines of dots was an advantage over the three lines required for braille; the principle of writing the most common letters with the fewest dots was likewise an advantage of New York Point and American Braille over English Braille.

Wait advocated the New York System as more logical than either the American Braille or the English Braille alphabets, and the three scripts competed in what was known as the War of the Dots. Around 1916, agreement settled on English Braille standardized to French Braille letter order, chiefly because of the superior punctuation compared with New York Point, the speed of reading braille, the large amount of written material available in English Braille compared with American Braille, and the international accessibility offered by following French alphabetical order.

Wait also invented the "Kleidograph", a typewriter with twelve keys for embossing New York Point on paper, and the "Stereograph", for creating metal plates to be used in printing.


The capital and lower-case letters of New York Point, excluding contractions

New York Point is not supported by Unicode, as of version 13.0. In the charts below, the first row of NYP are graphic images, and the second row are braille cells turned on their side. Older browsers may not support the latter.[1]

Like braille, there are contractions: single letters in NYP that correspond to sequences of letter in print, and sequences in NYP as well when capitalized.[2]

Lower-case letters and contractions
New York
pxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpx px pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx px pxpxpx
Print a b c d e f g h i j
New York
pxpxpx pxpx pxpx pxpx pxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpx pxpx px
Print k l m n o p q r s t
New York
pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx
Print u v w x y z the and of that
New York
pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx pxpxpx
Print ing ou ch sh th wh ph gh

Capitals are all 2×4 (8-dot blocks).

Capital letters
New York
pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx
Print A B C D E F G H I J
New York
pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx
Print K L M N O P Q R S T
New York
pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx
Print U V W X Y Z


Like in braille, there is a number sign that converts letters to digits. The ten digits are the same four-dot patterns found in braille, but with entirely different values:

New York
pxpx pxpx pxpx pxpx pxpx pxpx pxpx pxpx px px pxpxpx
Print 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 (num)
(Braille value) 7 3 0 6 4 8 9 5 2 1

The only punctuation marks three-dots wide are the number sign above and the quotation mark, which has the same form as the letter q. The dash, hyphen, and apostrophe are four dots wide.[3]

New York
px px pxpx pxpx pxpx pxpx pxpx pxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx pxpxpxpx
Print , ; . : ? ! ( ) “ ” - '

Musical notation[edit]

Notes are made by combining two 'primitives', which are the digits 1–7:

Half-symbol pxpx pxpx pxpx pxpx pxpx pxpx pxpx
Note value C D E F G A B
Length value whole note half note quarter note eighth note sixteenth note thirty-second note sixty-fourth note

pxpxpxpx⟩ is thus a whole C note, ⟨pxpxpxpx⟩ a quarter D note, etc. In chords, the length is only given for the first note mentioned.

These may be prefixed by ⟨px⟩ ♯, ⟨px⟩ ♭, or ⟨px⟩ ♮, and suffixed by ⟨px⟩ dot (length × 1½). These may be doubled, as in print.

The note is preceded by its octave, which is written as the number plus an upper dot: ⟨pxpxpx⟩ 5th 8va, ⟨pxpxpx⟩ 2nd 8va, etc.

Rests are two lower dots plus the length: ⟨pxpxpxpx⟩ a whole rest, ⟨pxpxpxpx⟩ a half rest, etc.

Chords are written as intervals, which is the number plus a lower dot: ⟨pxpxpx⟩ is a third, etc. The sign ⟨pxpx⟩ signals a change in octave. Thus a chord of three notes spanning the 4th to 5th octaves is

4th-8va C-whole 5th-inv'l with 5th-8va E

See Wait's publications for additional conventions.[4][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ NYP letters should only be as wide as their number of dots. However, since 2×3 braille cells are substituted for New York Point in the second row of their table, the one-dot-wide letters e, i, and t are wrongly shown as being as wide as others. The same inaccuracy occurs with the nine, zero, comma, and semicolon in the number and punctuation tables. The top row gives the proper widths.
  2. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia, Education of the Blind
  3. ^ These may not display properly on older browsers. Substituting with braille cells, they are dash , hyphen , and apostrophe , though without the gap between the left and right sets of dots.
  4. ^ Wait, 1882, A Practical System of Tangible Musical Notation and Point Writing and Printing
  5. ^ Wait, 1873, The New York System of Tangible Musical Notation

External links[edit]

  • "Kleidograph, 1894 - The Martin Howard Collection".
  • A Look Back, published in JVIB, March 2006, documents the War of the Dots.