Friday, 23 February 2018


Operating on the idea that gesture and gesticulation is the common lot of mankind and represents the closest that humans are capable of getting to a universal language, doctor and educator John Bulwer authored a pamphlet in 1644 called Chirologia, or the Naturall Language of the Hand with a number of illustrations to add rhetorical weight to one’s words, gleaned from a variety of historical sources.
Although the good doctor himself never seemed to academically link his earlier works to his later advocacy for the education of the hearing-impaired (one of the first champions of the deaf), Bulwer’s studies were formative to the invention of sign language and remnants can still be found in contemporary parlance. Records show that Bulwer’s spouse and issue—called only the widow of Middleton and adopted a daughter, probably deaf, named fancifully and a bit improbably Chirothea (Gift of the Hands) Johnson—is no relation to Baron Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton who authored a series of best-selling novels in the mid-nineteenth century, coining such phrases as “the great unwashed masses,” “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and perhaps most famously, the opening, “it was a dark and stormy night.” Bulwer-Lytton—who also turned down the crown of Greece when offered and inadvertently informed neo-Nazi esotericism by creating a subterranean master race called the Vril that appear in Wolfenstein and as an earlier, more fascist version of the Morlocks, suffered from deafness during his waning years.