Night writing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Night Writing
Script type
Time period
Related scripts
Child systems
Braille, New York Point
(not supported)

Night writing was an encoding system that used symbols of twelve dots arranged as two columns of six dots embossed on a square of paperboard. The system was a forerunner of Braille and was designed in 1815 by Charles Barbier.[1] It was one of twelve different alternative and shorthand writing methods created by Barbier.

Barbier's system was related to the Polybius square, in which a two-digit code represents a character. Barbier's original version was a 6×5 matrix, which he later expanded into a 6×6 matrix to include the main sounds of the French alphabet, as well as several digraphs and trigraphs:

Barbier's Night Writing matrix
1 2 3 4 5 6
1 a i o u é è
2 an in on un eu ou
3 b d g j v z
4 p t q ch f s
5 l m n r gn ll
6 oi oin ian ien ion ieu

A character (or digraph or trigraph) was represented by two axes of dots, in which the first column had one to six dots denoting the row in the matrix, and the second had one to six dots denoting the column: e.g., 4–2 for "t" represented by

The letter ⟨t⟩

As many as twelve dots (two columns of six) would be needed to represent one symbol.

Although Barbier suggested that the system could be used by the military or diplomatic services, the government showed little interest in his invention.

In 1821, Barbier approached the Royal Institute for the Blind in Paris, France, and demonstrated his method, which was adopted and used by the students during the 1820s. The students identified one major failing of the code, which was that the human finger could not encompass the whole symbol without moving and so could not move rapidly from one symbol to another. Also, there was no provision for punctuation or numerals in this system.

The system was eventually replaced with the six-dot cell, the Braille system that revolutionized written communication for the visually impaired.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barbier, Charles. "Essai sur Divers Procédés D'Expéditive Française, Contenant douze écritures différentes, avec une Planche pour chaque procédé" – via Google Books.