BRACERS Record Detail
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Australian Lecture Tour (1950)
Written on the letterhead of the Usher's Hotel in Sydney.
BR TO C.K. BLISS, 7 JULY 1950
BRACERS 54838. ALS(X). C.K. Bliss
Edited by Andrew Bone. Reviewed by Sheila Turcon
July 7, 1950
Dear Mr. Bliss,2
I have been looking through your system of Semantography3 and I think very highly of it. The logical analysis is good, the symbols are ingenious and easy to understand, and the whole is capable of being very useful. Any man or men who will spend the money necessary to get your work printed will, in my opinion, be performing an important service to mankind.4
P.S. You are at liberty to make any use you choose of this letter.5
[document] The letter was edited from a photocopy (obtained by the Russell Archives from the recipient) of the signed original written in BR’s hand on a single leaf of letterhead from Usher’s Hotel, Sydney.
[recipient] A chemical engineer by training, Charles K. Bliss (né Karl Kasiel Blitz, 1897–1985) was an Austrian-born Jew who was detained at Dachau and Buchenwald after the Anschluss in March 1938. On his release he fled to Britain, then spent most of the war years with his wife as a refugee in the Hongkou ghetto of Japanese-occupied Shanghai — where he became fascinated with the ideographic basis of Chinese writing. After the couple emigrated to Australia in 1946, Bliss undertook factory work while developing the symbolic system of language with which BR was so impressed.
Semantography Also known as Blissymbolics, Semantography is a pictorial language whose rules were set down by Bliss in his self-published Semantography: A Non-Alphabetical Symbol Writing, Readable in All Languages (1949). Although Bliss drew plaudits from other eminent intellectuals (notably Julian Huxley and Lancelot Hogben), Semantography languished in obscurity until the 1970s, when a limited practical application was found for it (in Canada) as a communications tool for severely disabled children (see Arika Okrent, In the Land of Invented Languages [New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2009], pp. 153–6).
Any man … your work printed … service to mankind. This endorsement eventually came to the attention of Stanley Unwin, who wondered whether BR “would really urge me to publish a book by Mr. Bliss?” (9 Aug. 1951, BRACERS 50758). While confirming in his reply the following day that he did hold the author’s work in high esteem, BR nevertheless conceded that publishing it would result in “a large financial loss. I think you should be performing a service to mankind, but there are many services to mankind that can be performed for an equal sum, and it is not for me to judge which of them you prefer” (BRACERS 48222).
You are at liberty … any use … this letter. Shortly after receiving this letter, Bliss published it in a brochure advertising his Institute for Semantography: Semantography Series, Leaflet No. 6 (July 1950): 9. He certainly made the most of BR’s commendation, reproducing it in several other institute publications over the next fifteen years (see B&R G17).
Record last modified 2021/03/19
Created/last modified by duncana