The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has announced the publication in recorded and braille formats of poet Seamus Heaney's critically acclaimed new version of Beowulf, the anonymous epic poem that is often said to mark the start of the English literary tradition.
The Nobel Prize-winning poet's long-awaited new translation of Beowulf was initially commissioned by publisher W.W. Norton in the mid-1980s. The Old English classic about the exploits of a heroic Scandinavian clan chieftain was a best-seller on summer 2000 booklists. In advance of its renewed popularity, NLS selected the book for production in braille and recorded formats because of its high literary distinction.
The braille edition of Beowulf has been produced by NLS in cooperation with the National Braille Press. In the Braille edition, Old English is treated as a foreign language and rendered in uncontracted grade 1 braille (braille in which every letter is represented by a braille character and the abbreviations or contractions that streamline the use of modern English braille are eliminated).
Narrated by Patrick Horgan, the audio version of Beowulf was produced in the studios of the American Foundation for the Blind in New York City. The modern English text of the poem and some explanatory material are followed by Mr. Heaney's commentary and then the narration of the Old English version.
Emerging from an ancient oral tradition, Beowulf was originally an exciting story meant to be read aloud. In addition to serving its constituents, NLS has produced a recording that restores the poem to its original intentions.
The finished recording will provide patrons with complete access to this literary masterwork, with the original language, translation and scholarly commentary intact.
Beowulf is available to eligible NLS users through their cooperating network libraries.
The History and Significance of Braille
Braille: Into the Next Millennium, a 600-page anthology of articles by international experts in the field of braille, has been published jointly by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) of the Library of Congress and the Friends of Libraries for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals in North America.
In his foreword, NLS Director Frank Kurt Cylke notes, "With a tactile medium such as braille comes literacy—spelling, writing and broad communication possibilities are open and available. With literacy comes the possibility of freedom. With freedom comes the possibility of endless achievement—from pleasant living to significant social contributions. Personal and institutional commitments to braille by enthusiasts in the United States have helped advance literacy for blind individuals in North America and have therefore advanced the possibility of freedom for thousands."
The book is in three parts. Part I, "Braille in the Past," covers the origins of braille, embossed printing in the United States and the home of Louis Braille in France. Part II, "Braille in the Present," includes 18 articles on such diverse subjects as the literary code, mathematics and music codes. Part III, "Braille in the Future," discusses braille as a predictor of success, electronic distribution of braille and future braille codes and fonts. In addition, there is an appendix of ASCII braille characters, a list of contributors and an extensive bibliography.
According to the book's editor, Judith Dixon, consumer relations officer for NLS and originator of the concept for the book, "We trace braille from its beginnings through the myriad of current uses and also take a peek at the future. Each author is an expert in his or her field and has brought to this work a perspective that can be acquired only through experience and a profound closeness to the subject."
Kenneth Jernigan, who served for many years as president of the National Federation of the Blind, states in his preface, "It is in this atmosphere of renewed opportunity and hope that the current book is produced. It will make a valuable contribution to the new emphasis on braille, and it will give historical background and perspective. It will also synthesize and draw together present thinking and point the way to the future."
The book will be available in braille and recorded formats for NLS readers by January 2001. Print copies have been supplied to libraries and universities in the United States and Canada through the Friends of Libraries for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals in North America.
Single print copies are available at no cost upon request to the Reference Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20542; telephone (202) 707-5100.
For additional information, contact: Robert E. Fistick, Head, Publications and Media Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20542; telephone: (202) 707-9279; e-mail: [email protected]; NLS Web site: www.loc.gov/nls.