An "international eye chart" from 1907

Originally published at:


Why is there Roman letters in both a standard block font, and black letter? Is that for Hispanic gangsters? Did they have those back then? Or is that more for Germans?

I just went to the source to see whether it would have more information, and it doesn’t, but it is a wonderful book that I have saved for future enjoyment. I highly recommend it, it would be a great Holiday present in printed form.

The question that I wanted answered was whether the chart came with a booklet with the phonetic pronunciation of all those letters in their original language[s], and also of the figures in the central panel in every possible language. Otherwise, it would not always be that useful.


Fraktur, I imagine.


That thing is beautiful. I want it. Someone, sell posters of it. I’m no eye doctor, but it’d be an awesome thing to show my class when we talk about polyglot communities.


I would suspect so. There were a lot of them.


Hebrew would not have been a widely-spoken language in 1907. The Hebrew characters were most likely meant for immigrant Jews from Europe who spoke and read Yiddish. Yiddish is very close to German, but is written using Hebrew letters.


Here you go!


I was wondering about this myself given the Hebrew Revival was still in it’s early stages around this time. Your explanation makes a lot of sense.


I’ve seen Yiddish described as “German spoken by people with a sense of humor.”


Today I learned something new.

Thanks, and welcome to BoingBoing!


The center column is clearly the international column, with pictographs of cat, dog, and American flag.

In case anyone is curious about the $3 and $6 price tags, by some estimates $3 in 1907 had the purchasing power of $74.76 in 2017.

Also worth pointing out since this was made in San Francisco in 1907, that’s just one year after the catastrophic earthquake and fire of 1906.

I’ve found books published in Germany well into the 20th Century that were printed using this kind of Fraktur blackletter typeface, as a matter of course. I didn’t get very far trying to read them as a kid.

I ran into this a few weeks ago while helping someone identify a medal issued by the Colegio Israelita de Mexico commemorating the 100th anniversary of Theodor Herzl’s birth. We found someone to translate the writing on it for us but they said that the words written on one side using the Hebrew alphabet were Yiddish rather than actual Hebrew, and he didn’t understand them. Someone else was eventually able to help with the Yiddish translation.

This is what it looked like - from a site we found after trying to figure out what it was:


Mayerle’s Eyewater is bullshit.

For me, it’s always been Dr. Von Hoodwink’s Optical Rejuvenating Drops.


If you have an interest in eye charts and the history of eye charts, you’ll enjoy William P. Germano’s recently published cultural history of eye charts titled, doh, Eye Chart. It’s a short, very readable book and the history of eye charts is lively, interesting, and on-going. I very highly recommend it. It’s one of those books that had me digging through the internets for a week, a sign post to a deep, deep rabbit hole :slight_smile:

(It’s in a series of short monographs about the cultural histories of various objects, edited by Ian Bogost and Christopher Schaberg, and published by Bloomsbury called Object Lessons which, if you are interested in the cultural history of objects, is very much worth checking out.)


I’ve got an old German textbook somewhere that was printed in Fraktur.

There’s some fascinating history underlying it all; pre-echoes of Comic Sans mixed with the rise of nationalism.


Hey, you quoted my own Wikipedia link back at me! It must be a sign that I should finally give reading old German books another shot. :grinning:


Whoops. :slightly_smiling_face:

(in my semi-defence, I initially wrote it as a reply to Mr44, then hooked it onto your post without reading carefully)


Your citation of wikipedia is particularly apt, since it asserts…
“German script does not cause nearsightedness and is healthier for the eyes than Latin script”.


Literally laughed out loud at this line. Thanks! :smile:

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