SACKS, Oliver. Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989.
8vo. Publisher's black cloth-backed grey boards; spine lettered in silver; in the original pictorial dust-wrapper (not price-clipped); pp. [viii], vii-xv, [i], 180, [ii]; author's gift inscription in black felt pen to front fly-leaf; minor creasing to top edge of wrapper; else a fine copy.
First edition, inscribed by Sacks to his niece to the front fly-leaf: 'For Liz, my dear niece, who provided the title for this book, with all my love, Oliver 8/88.' Sacks writes in the Preface 'I am much indebted to my niece, Elizabeth Sacks Chase, who suggested the title - it derives from Pyramus' words to Thisbe in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream: "I see a voice…"
Sacks was comparatively unfamiliar with Shakespeare, but his niece Elizabeth had gained a PhD in English specialising in the playwright. She therefore helped to familiarise him with aspects of Shakespeare which were relevant to his case studies and medical interests. Along with Seeing Voices, she also helped to provide the title for his later work The Mind’s Eye, taken directly from Hamlet’s words to Horatio: “In my mind’s eye, Horatio”.
In this, a study into deafness, Sacks gives an account not only of the world of silence, but also of a world in which the visual is paramount. It begins with the history of deaf people in the United States, and their treatment throughout history. Later he explores visual language of the deaf–sign – which has only in the past decade been recognised fully as a language.
Sacks wrote of this work: “I had never thought about what it might mean to be deaf, to be deprived of language, or to have a remarkable language (and community and culture) of one’s own. Up to this point, I had mostly thought and written about the problems of individuals–here I was to encounter an entire community.”