MS 3884

Papers of Charles Bliss (1897-1985)

Scope and Content Note



10.06m (68 boxes) + 1 folio

Available for reference

The papers of Charles Bliss were acquired by the Library, initially from Bliss and, following his death, from his executor and the State Library of New South Wales. They were received in a number of instalments from 1973 to June 1994.

The papers comprise correspondence, cuttings, research notes, and roneoed material relating to Bliss's several publications on semantography and communications. The newspaper and journal cuttings are arranged under the headings Language, Education, Biology, History, Religion, and Pioneers of new ideas, and, together with work notes and early drafts of articles, form the basis of his two most important books Semantography (Blissymbolics) and The Invention and Discovery that will change our lives.

There are also over 200 issues of Bliss's roneoed newsletters Semantography series (Nos. 1-203), which date from 1949 to 1964. The correspondence, which is arranged alphabetically, reveals the world-wide interest shown in Bliss's work. Principal correspondents are Douglas Everingham, Professor Oliver Reiser and Fritz Treuer.

The papers added in November 1986 have some categories which are incomplete, because they appear not to have been preserved by Bliss in their entirety.

Biographical Note

Charles Kasiel Blitz was born to Jewish parents in Austria in 1897. After graduating in Chemical Engineering from Vienna Technical University in 1922, Bliss became chief of patents in a large electrical firm. He fled from Nazi occupation during World War II, making his way via England to Shanghai where he lived until travelling to Australia in 1946. While in England, he officially changed his surname to Bliss.

In Australia, Bliss did not return to his profession of chemical engineering, but took a job on the construction line of General Motors Holden, so that he could concentrate on perfecting a system of sign language he had developed using ‘Blissymbols’ to help people communicate. The system enabled people to use simple symbols to express themselves, without being confused by spelling and grammatical complexities. In 1949 he published Semantic Bliss symbols. In 1971 the Ontario Crippled Children’s Home began to use Bliss symbols for the teaching of communication to cerebral palsied children.

After the death of his wife Claire in 1961, the Semantography Trust Fund was established under the terms of her will, for the purpose of propagating the Bliss concept.

In 1974, Film Australia and the National Film Board of Canada made a film about Bliss entitled Mr Symbol Man.

The Blissymbolics Communication Foundation was established in Toronto, Canada in 1975, to maintain standard symbol form and to provide training and materials for people who apply Blissymbolics with non-speaking persons. The Foundation was renamed the Blissymbolics Communication Institute in 1978.

Bliss received an Order of Australia in 1969 and an Advance Australia Award in 1982 in recognition of his work. He was also appointed an Honorary Fellow in Linguistics at the Australian National University in 1979

Charles Bliss died at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick on 13 July 1985 after a short illness.


Boxes 1-2

Completed books on Semantography-Blissymbolics


Early manuscripts and work notes


Manuscript of The Invention and Discovery that will change our Lives, including references to ‘Nuclear Weapons’ used in the book


Original drawings by Murray A. Frederick for the book Invention and Discovery
Newspaper and journal article references used in the book Invention and Discovery


Newspaper and journal article references on symbols and language used in the books


Newspaper and journal article references on education used in the books


Newspaper and journal article references on biology used in the books


Newspaper and journal article references on history used in the books


Newspaper and journal article references on religion and pioneers of new ideas used in the books


Semantography Series: issues Nos.1-180


Semantography Series: issues Nos. 181-203


Original documents to the Semantography Series: issues Nos. 1-203


Correspondence: Douglas Everingham, 1951-70


Correspondence: Oliver Reiser, 1949-72 Fritz Treuer, 1948-72


Correspondence fragments, 1946-73, A-E


Correspondence fragments, 1946-73, F-M


Correspondence fragments, 1946-73, N-Z

Added 1977

Box 26

Back to the Tower of Babel : booklet of Semantography Series, No. 278
Transcripts of lectures, 1977 Circular letter by G.W. Hewes, 1972
Press releases, 1972

Added 4 April 1985

Box 26

The Blissymbols Picture Book, by C.K. Bliss and correspondence with the Director-General at the National Library of Australia

Added 16 October 1986

Box 26

‘In Memory of Claire’, typescript by C.K. Bliss

Added November 1986

Boxes 27

Not used


Correspondence in named files, A-M


Correspondence in named files, N-Z


Letters and book orders, 1970-77, D-H


Letters and book orders, 1970-77, I-Q


Letters and book orders, 1970-77, S-Z


Letters and book orders, 1978-79, F-K; correspondence with Doug Everingham, 1972-75


Letters and book orders, 1978-79, L-Z


Correspondence, 1980


Business and personal correspondence, 1964-85. The bulk of the correspondence relates to Bliss’s dispute with the Blissymbolics Communications Foundation, Canada, and the subsequent court case. A small amount of correspondence with friends is included and there is also business correspondence relating to the boarding house Bliss managed in Coogee, Sydney, correspondence courses he ran and the printing of his books, both in Australia and Japan.


Canada: material relating to legal proceedings that took place between Charles Bliss, the Blissymbolics Communication Institute (formerly Blissymbolics Communication Foundation) and the Ontario Crippled Children's Centre in 1980. Shirley McNaughton of OCCC was alleged to be illegally using his symbols. (See also Box 67)


Papers relating to a nomination by Douglas Everingham to award the 1969 Nobel Peace Prize to Bliss, 1968-71


Various manuscript drafts


‘In Memory of Claire’: papers relating to Bliss's wife Claire.


Documents, memorabilia, photographs


Shanghai papers
Memorabilia, 1978


Press cuttings
Miscellaneous documents



Added 16 June 1994

Boxes 62

Alphabetical files, B-H


Alphabetical files, H-M


Alphabetical files, M-S


Minute books containing copies of personal documents of Charles and Claire Bliss, 1961-84
Sydney correspondence to family in Europe, 1946-49 (in German)


Sydney papers, 1943-82. Included are invitations, newspaper cuttings, correspondence and typescripts.
Papers on patents, 1949-67
Correspondence, 1974-80


Correspondence and other papers, 1974-80, relating to the court case Charles K. Bliss -v- Blissymbolics Communications Foundation and the Ontario Crippled Children's Centre in the Supreme Court of Ontario, 1977-81. (See also Boxes 41-51)
Correspondence, 1984
BCI conference papers and other papers, 1984


Miscellaneous papers including articles and newspaper clippings,

Printed matter


Cutting book, 1943-81 containing newspaper clippings, pamphlets and correspondence

December 1999
Updated 14 April 2010