WRITTEN LANGUAGE 255
alphabet of the past. We desire the old because we do not know
the new, and we always look for the grandeur of things which have
passed away without recognizing in the humble simplicity of new
•beginnings the germ which must develop in the future.
I understood then that an alphabet of paper could easily be
multiplied into more copies, and so could be used by many children
at the same time, not only for the recognition of letters but for the
composition of words.
I also learnt that in the alphabet of sandpaper I had found
the guide so much desired for the finger which touches the letter,
so that not only sight but also touch was used directly in teaching
the movement of writing, together with exact control. Full of
the enthusiasm of this hope we set ourselves, the two teachers and
I, in the evening after school, to cutting out a great number of
letters of the alphabet from simple writing-paper, gumming some
on smooth paper and colouring the others blue. We then spread
them out on tables and found them dry next morning. Whilst
we were working there took shape in my mind an exceedingly clear
picture of the method in all its completeness, so simple that it
made me smile to think that I had never thought of it before. The
story of our attempts is very interesting.
One day when one of the mistresses was ill I sent as a sub-
stitute for her one of my pupils, Signorina Anna Fedeli, a teacher
of pedagogy in a normal school. When I went to see Signorina
Fedeli in the evening, she showed me two modifications made in
the alphabet. One consisted in having placed above and below
each letter a strip of white paper to enable the child to recognize
the side of the letter, which he often turned about in all directions.
Another change consisted in making a case out of cardboard, in
which would be placed in every compartment a group of the same
letters, whereas at first they were all mixed up together in a heap.
I still keep that case made from the cardboard of a broken box
which was found in the door-keeper's lodge and stitched together
roughly with white thread. In showing it to me Signorina Fedeli
was almost excusing herself for the disgraceful work, but I was