Doktoro Benson. Mi Amas Lin.

Yes, I love Dr. Benson. William Sol Benson. He’s my favorite early American Esperantist. He was a New Jersey osteopath at the beginning of the last century. He was born in Kiev and moved to the United States as a teenager, having learned Esperanto in Russia in the second year of its existence. He loved Esperanto. He loved it so much that he was inspired to create a textbook, using pictures exclusively to teach the new language. The only problem? He was a doctor, a busy man, who may or may not have had any artistic ability. Most of us, in such a situation, would have shelved our esoteric goals and instead concentrated on more mundane career demands. But not Dr. Benson! He found a way. He enlisted the help of a local prison inmate, a man with both artistic ability and unlimited time on his hands. With the help of this uncredited inmate, Dr. Benson published his “Universala Bildmetodo” in 1932. It includes hundreds of drawings, such as the one pictured above, that teach various aspects of the language. And it’s clear that Dr. Benson, in addition to commissioning these drawings, posed for several of them. Yes, that’s him in today’s drawing. And notice how every drawing is just a little bit different. Today, with computer assisted drawing programs, an artist would surely reproduce the same basic drawing ten times and simply manipulate the fingers to represent the given numbers. In the late 1920’s, our inmate friend had little choice but to actually draw each panel from scratch. Perhaps not the most efficient method, but one that produced, in my opinion, profoundly charming results!

And if anyone noticed a certain Ed Troyer vibe in the cut of that mustache, well, yes, you get bonus points.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Margaret
    Oct 24, 2009 @ 20:49:33

    Ed Troyer? I was thinking a little Hitleresque. Some of the numbers look familiar to me from my language studies, but others must come from languages I don't know.


  2. Fran
    Oct 25, 2009 @ 08:45:59

    Excuse me but I delited my first comment because I wrote stupid mistakes. I hope this is better.Very interesting, but not easy to differentiate from each other. Sometimes there is only a small difference in the words.I mean by that (see your first Espento sheet),in Dutch we say: hond for hundo , knaap for knabo.You must have a clever mind to withhold such a smal difference!


  3. Danger Panda
    Oct 25, 2009 @ 09:07:35

    Margaret, I think, despite how evil Hitler was, you can at least say that he had a stronger chin than Ed Troyer (or William S. Benson, for that matter).Fran,Thanks for stopping by here! Actually, it's those little differences that are supposed to make Esperanto so easy to learn. The words are very closely related to those with Latin (and other) roots. I find that many are exactly the same as Spanish words, for example. It can be confusing at first, but it does get better as you move along.


  4. Paula
    Oct 25, 2009 @ 21:11:08

    That is extremely interesting. That's a good way to make prisoners do something constructive. But I agree that a computer could do a better job than a human in this case. 🙂


  5. Masago
    Oct 26, 2009 @ 15:50:47

    You may already know about our complete scan of Dr. Benson's book; if not you can go here: Seward


  6. Danger Panda
    Oct 27, 2009 @ 18:09:34

    Paula,It's good to see you here! Keep up the good Esperanto work!Vaughn,Yes! I am aware of your scanned version of the book and refer to it regularly. I finally located a hard copy of the book through a rare book dealer. Very expensive, but I decided to buy it anyway just so I can hold it, leaf trough it, and appreciate it. But! I'm so glad you've made it available on the internet. It could easily be lost forever, and it's great to see it being re-discovered and used by a new generation.


  7. Cherie
    Nov 12, 2009 @ 07:31:21

    No, I don't have a comment on Esperanto, although it seems a very Kris activity to me…saw your post on my blog. I miss you! Call me! LOTS to talk about…


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