Moon type

The Moon System of Embossed Reading (commonly known as the Moon writing, Moon alphabet, Moon script, Moon type, or Moon code) is a writing system for the blind, using embossed symbols mostly derived from the Latin script (but simplified). It is claimed by its supporters to be easier to understand than Braille, though it is mainly used by people who have lost their sight as adults, and thus already have knowledge of the shapes of letters.

LanguagesEnglish, French, German, Dutch, Danish, Russian, Arabic, Armenian, Greek, Hindustani, Mandarin
CreatorWilliam Moon
Time period
1845 to present
Parent systems
ISO 15924Moon, 218


Moon type was developed by Dr. William Moon (1818—1894), a blind Englishman living in Brighton, East Sussex. After a bout of scarlet fever, Moon lost his sight at age 21 and became a teacher of blind children. He discovered that his pupils had great difficulty learning to read the existing styles of embossed reading codes, and devised his own system that would be "open and clear to the touch."[1]

Moon first formulated his ideas in 1843 and published the scheme in 1845. Moon is not as well known as Braille, but it is a valuable alternative touch reading scheme for the blind or partially sighted people of any age.

Rather than the dots of braille type, Moon type is made up of raised curves, angles, and lines. As the characters are quite large and over half the letters bear a strong resemblance to the print equivalent, Moon has been found particularly suitable for those who lose their sight later in life or for people who may have a less keen sense of touch. It has also proved successful as a mode of literacy for children with additional physical and/or learning difficulties.

Moon books for fluent readers can be borrowed from the RNIB National Library Service and books for children from Clearvision Project.

Foreign languages

English Christian missionaries in Ningbo, China, during the Qing dynasty used Moon type to teach blind locals how to read Ningbo. Missionaries who spoke the Ningbo dialect ran the "Home for Indigent Old People" where most of the inmates were blind. In 1874, an English missionary taught a young blind man to read romanised Ningbo written in Moon type. The Gospel of Luke was then transcribed into two large volumes of Moon type. A Swiss missionary placed notices on placards throughout Ningbo stating that he would give food and money to the blind people who visited. The Gospel of Mark was transcribed into Moon type using romanized Mandarin, however, without the tone marks. Missionary Hudson Taylor, who had been involved with the transcription of the gospels, did not find tone marks necessary, as the romanised Ningpo vernacular has never used tone marks. However, aspirated consonants were distinguished.[2]



As with Braille, there is a Grade 1 using one Moon character per one Latin character and a Grade 2 using contractions and shorthand that make texts more compact and faster to read, though requiring more study.[3]


Similarly to Braille, the initial version of Moon type used the first ten letters with a "number start" symbol as digits.


A later version used different symbols for each digit (StaffsMaths). These symbols are more complex to print.[4]


The type also includes punctuation.

Dotty Moon

Besides the original type formed by lines, there is the possibility of using certain Braille embossers to produce dot patterns (Dotty Moon or Dotted Moon) in the shape of Moon characters.[5] The patterns are disposed as a 5x5 grid.


Initially the text changed direction (but not character orientation) at the end of the lines. Special embossed lines connected the end of a line and the beginning of the next.[6] Around 1990, it changed to a left-to-right orientation.


The Royal National Institute for the Blind[7] has reservations about the viability of Moon type as an alternative to Braille, while open to explore other proposals.


  1. Farrell, p. 102.
  2. J. Crossett (April 6, 1889). The Chinese Times. III. Tientsin: Tientsin Printing Co. p. 213. Retrieved 17 July 2011. Wayside Notes.
    This is written in the court of the Home for Indigent Old People while my companions, who speak the Ningpo colloquial, are talking to the inmates. Many are blind or have eyes little better than blind. The diligence with which a large proportion of them recite prayers is quite noticeable. The same men in charge of this Home have also the trust of a fund to loan out without interest to poor men who can give good security. Many can thus do business who otherwise could not.

    I found an English missionary who in 1874 taught a young blind man in a short time to read the colloquial of Ningpo written with the letters of Moon's system for the blind. At that time Ningpo had the Gospel of Luke in two large volumes of the Moon's system embossed. This blind man was boarded in the family of a teacher in the missionary's compound, but for some reason he went off and the labour appeared to be lost. This missionary returns to England in a little while, when I hope he will gather information and interest others about the blind in China. A Swiss missionary here used to give out notices by placards over the city that at such a time he would give a feast and money to the blind people who came. He thus tried to gather statistics about them and do them a favour. He was here too short a time to accomplish so much in teaching them as he hoped to do. He used a point system. The Moon's system employed was like the recently brought out Mark in Moon's raised letter Romanized mandarin without tone marks. Mr. Hudson Taylor, who had to do with getting the embossed Luke in Ningpo fifteen years ago, and the embossed Mark in Mandarin does not think that tone marks are necessary. The well known and long used Ningpo Romanized vernacular has not now nor never has had any tone marks. Aspirates, however, are distinguished. When people sing hymns it is not likely that they pay attention to tones in their enunciation. They read the Romanized books, however, correctly, because of the well understood connection of sense. We did not use tone marks in the tangible point system used at Hankow.

    At a mosque to-day the interesting information was given me of the "Sect who pluck out the sinew" at Cliang-sha Fu in Hunan province. We must find out what it means. My informant professed to be the Ah-hung of the Ningpo mosque, whose home originally was Chi-nan Fu but who for twenty years had been here and at Hangchow. He had forgotten that to-day was juh ma, i.e., Friday, the Moslem's worship-day. This little colony and mosque are spoken of in "The Middle Kingdom." The Ah-hung brought out an Arabic New Testament in his possession. He says that at Hangchow are some families of the Kwan Ch'uan-kiao, i.e., the patriarchal sect. A missionary here as long ago as 1852 found men in Ningpo from the West of China, who were worshippers of one only God, but denied being Moslems or Christians.

    J. Crossett.
  3. Learning Moon, 20 September 2012, Royal National Institute for the Blind, archived at
  4. Moon Maths, Moon Literacy (archived at the Internet Archive.)
  5. Writing and producing Moon, Royal National Institute for the Blind.
  6. Moon Type for the Blind, Ramseyer Bible Collection, Kathryn A. Martin Library, University of Minnesota Duluth.
  7. Moon at the RNIB site.


  •  This article incorporates text from The Chinese Times, a publication from 1889 now in the public domain in the United States.
  • Farrell, Gabriel (1956). The Story of Blindness. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. OCLC 263655.
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