Afrikaans Bible in braille celebrates 75 years

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The Afrikaans Bible in braille commemorates its 75th anniversary this year. Just eight years after the first complete Bible in Afrikaans was published in 1933, the first Afrikaans Bible in braille was published on 21 October 1941.

The Afrikaans was only the fourth language worldwide to receive a complete braille Bible. At that stage, only English, German and French had complete braille Bibles available. Today, 44 of approximately 6 887 languages worldwide, have full braille Bibles available.

At the time, the School for the Blind (Pioneer School) in Worcester, Western Cape, was responsible for the monumental task of rewriting the complete Bible text to braille. The decision was taken to start with a Bible for the blind a year or so after the publication of the first complete Afrikaans Bible.

It was, however, not an easy task and great difficulties arose with the existing printing press and also with the paper. However, it was so important to both the Bible Society and the School to ensure that the Bible was accessible to the learners that a new printing press and the best possible paper was obtained from Europe.

The first Afrikaans braille Bible comprised 75 volumes and when stacked on top of each other reached a height of about 2,9 m and had a combined weight of 63,5 kg. Today, the Afrikaans braille Bible comprises only 45 volumes.

The production cost of one Bible amounted to R60,92 in 1941 and blind people could purchase the complete set for R0,15. Today, production costs amount to approximately R3 200, but the Bible Society with the help of donors, enable the blind to receive a braille Bible free of charge.