Arithmetic for deaf mutes

Arithmetic for deaf mutes

Dudley, D[avid] C[hristopher] (1848–1899). Arithmetic for deaf mutes. Danville, KY: Printed at the Kentucky Deaf Mute Office by the pupils of the institution, [1881]. 170 pages ; 18 cm. Dated ownership inscriptions of James Bowen (1884) and Elisabeth Cervenka (1915-16). Very good in original printed cloth-backed boards.

A rare volume by a pioneering educator for the deaf published and bound by students at the Kentucky School for Deaf Mutes.

As one of his students recalled, D. C. Dudley "had grown up among the deaf, was entirely at home with them and thoroughly devoted to their interests.” A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, where his father was a prominent printer, Dudley was apprenticed in 1862 as a bookbinder at the School for the Deaf in that city. He obtained a Masters degree from Wake Forest and in 1870 was promoted to teacher at the North Carolina school. Perfectly fluent in sign language, he also served as an interpreter in legal and medical proceedings and helped to officiate at weddings.


From Charles P. Fosdick, Centennial history of the Kentucky School for the Deaf (Danville, KY: Kentucky Standard, 1923)

In March, 1879, Dudley accepted the position of superintendent of the Kentucky School for Deaf Mutes, founded in 1823 as the first state-supported school for the instruction of deaf children in the United States. Poor health compelled him to move to a more salubrious climate in 1884, and he took a position at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, where he worked on and off as his health permitted until shortly before his death in 1899 (some sources give the date of 1900 erroneously).

As the son of a printer and a former bookbinder, Dudley established a bindery at the Kentucky school to teach his students a useful trade. His assistant later recalled the circumstances:

In 1879, Mr. D. C. Dudley, who was himself a skilled bookbinder, established in the old shop-building a book-bindery fully equipped with tools and machinery and placed Mr. Charles P. Fosdick in charge as instructor. The bindery was conducted successfully until 1883, when upon the retirement of Mr. Fosdick, who had removed to Florida, it was discontinued as it was found the trade offered few opportunities for employment in this state. (Fosdick, 35)

This volume is one of their few productions, produced in limited numbers, and sold for 50 cents a copy, $5 a dozen. Although the copyright date is 1882, it was issued earlier. An 1881 review praised the volume’s success “in presenting the most essential parts of elementary arithmetic in simple language and with abundant illustration.”

            The present copy bears the dated signatures of two deaf students who used the book, James Bowen (1884) and Elisabeth Cervenka (1915-16), both of whom were enrolled at the Minnesota Institute for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind in Faribault, Minnesota. Only one copy recorded on OCLC, at Galladuet University.

Selected References

Obituary. The Association Review 2 (1900): 94.

Review. American Annals of the Deaf and Dumb 26, no. 4 (October 1881): 250-51.

Argo, William K. “My first class in a school for the deaf.” American Annals of the Deaf 66, no. 3 (1921): 217–43.

Beauchamp, James B. History of the Kentucky School for the Deaf: 1823-1973. KSD Press, 1973.

FosdickCharles P. Centennial history of the Kentucky School for the Deaf, Danville, KY: Kentucky Standard, 1923.

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