[THORNTON, William (1759-1828)]
Prize Dissertation ... Cadmus: Or, a Treatise on the Elements of Written Language. Illustrating, by a philosophical division of speech, the power of each character, thereby mutually fixing the orthography and orthoepy ... With an essay on the mode of teaching the surd or deaf, and consequently dumb, to speak
Philadelphia: R. Aitken & Son, 1793. 8vo. vii, , -110, pp. Folding table of "Distinct sounds contained in the English Language." Errata leaf in the rear. Uncut. With manuscript corrections and additions by the author on pages 44 and 47.
Provenance: John D. Orr (author's presentation inscription on the title)
Presentation copy of the first American publication on teaching the deaf, written by the architect of the U.S. Capitol
The bulk of this treatise deals with the idea of a universal alphabet, but it includes the essay at the end (pp. 94-110) that is the first work upon the education of the deaf actually written and published in America. In it, the author suggests the modern method of teaching the deaf to speak, for which the American Philosophical Society awarded him the Magellanic gold medal.
Thornton (1759-1828), the son of a West Indian planter, was educated in Great Britain. He emigrated to the United States in 1786 and became a U.S. citizen two years later. A polymath, his interests and activities were astonishingly varied. Trained as a doctor, he soon turned his attention to architecture, designing the first building for the Library Company of Philadelphia (1789) and winning the competition to design the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Thornton was associated with John Fitch in the development of a steam-driven paddle boat and was appointed to head the fledgling U.S. Patent Office in 1802, and was an early advocate of abolition and African colonization.
Evans 26258; Sabin 95646.