BLISS, C[harles]. K. Semantography (Blissymbolics). Sydney: Semantography (Blissymbolics) Publications, (1965).



BLISS, C[harles]. K.
Semantography (Blissymbolics). Second enlarged edition. A simple system of 100 logical pictorial symbols, which can be operated and read like 1 + 2 = 3 in all languages. It can be typed and printed, and used in international communication and commerce, industry and science. It contains also a simple semantics, logic, and ethics, which even children can learn to use in their problems.
Sydney: Semantography (Blissymbolics) Publications, (1965).

8vo (222 × 150 mm), pp.888. Plain endpapers. Green cloth-covered boards, spine and front lettered in gilt; spotting to top edge of text block, light fading to head and foot of spine, and to rear panel at head of spine and hinges. Illustrated dust-jacket printed in red and black. UNESCO code, addressed purchase and ordering information, and a message for readers, librarians and possible donors printed to verso, some of which have been struck through in blue ink; light fading and soiling to spine, two small holes to front panel, jagged tear to rear panel at spine-fold with a little loss. Inscribed by Bliss in blue ink to front free endpaper. Publisher’s bookmark laid in. Accompanied by several pieces of ephemera including a copy of a letter from Buckingham Palace and three pieces inscribed by Bliss to Michael Rubinstein. A Very good copy.

Second edition following the self-published mimeographed first edition of 1949. Inscribed by Bliss using Blissymbolics with an English translation to Michael Rubinstein, the solicitor who successfully defended Penguin Books during their prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act (1959) for publishing the unexpurgated text of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.  : ‘[…] to the man of Justice and Law / […] Michael Rubinstein / […] and to you dear / […] Joy / […] who is interested helping / […] needy children / […] my book and / […] guess what? / Yours / Charles Bliss / 14 Nov. 78’. 

Charles Bliss (1897-1985) was born in Austria, and studied chemical engineering at Vienna University of Technology. After graduating he worked as a research chemist and later as chief of the patent department at an electronics company until the outbreak of war when he was sent to a Nazi concentration camp. Following his release in 1938 he moved to England until 1940, then to Shanghai where he was imprisoned as a prisoner-of-war, finally settling in Australia. It was whilst in Shanghai that he was exposed to the Chinese writing system which encouraged him to begin to devise ‘Semantography’ (or ‘Blissymbolics’), a universal symbol system that could be translated into any language, and which he hoped would help to bring about world peace and to promote greater understanding between nations and cultures.

Bliss describes semantography as 'a collection of 100 symbols, each consisting of a few schematized lines which faintly indicate the outline of things. From this core hundreds of compound signs are built, and syntactic markers allow each icon to function in three modes: thing, action, or human evaluation.' He wrote that semantography can translate any interpretive or metaphoric statement into quantifying, physical terms, referring to semantography as a microscope and telescope for thinking.

This copy is inscribed to Michael Rubinstein, a solicitor who joined the family firm of Rubinstein, Nash & Co in 1948 and remained there until he retired in 1994. He was ‘best known for representing the leading publishing houses of his era, including Chatto and Windus, Sidgwick and Jackson, Hodder and Stoughton, Jonathan Cape, Victor Gollancz, and Penguin, then independent companies yet to be swallowed up by publishing conglomerates. 

His most notable triumph was his successful defence in 1960 of Penguin Books when the latter was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act (1959) for publishing the unexpurgated text of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. This was the first prosecution of a novel under an ostensibly liberalizing act of parliament to amend the law of obscenity and to protect literature. While the prosecution floundered in a time warp of witnesses cheerfully asserting that they did not have to read the book to know it was obscene, and prosecuting counsel asking the jury whether they would want their maidservants or wives to read the book, Rubinstein concentrated on rallying the literary establishment to prove that its publication was justified in the public interest. Thirty-five witnesses testified to its merits. Rubinstein had the delicate task of finding a sexually unimpeachable female witness who could testify that she had read the book and remained uncorrupted. Penguin’s triumphant acquittal signified an end to such prosecutions of books where a defence of literary merit could be raised... 

Within a year Rubinstein’s grateful clients, Penguin, had sold two million of Lawrence’s lesser works. The outcome gave particular satisfaction to Rubinstein since his father’s defence thirty years previously of The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, a novel with lesbian themes, had failed’ (DNB).


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