Documents showing the Vai script

Description

A new way of writing – a script for the Vai language – was invented in Liberia in the early 19th century. Mọmọlu Duwalu Bukẹlẹ later explained how, on the basis of a dream, he invented a full syllabic script – that is, each character represents one syllable. He may also have taken inspiration from an earlier pictographic system.

A British naval officer, Lieutenant Frederick Forbes, came across this script in 1849 and sent these two documents to the British Museum. The first, a two-sided document of which we show both sides, is written entirely in the script. The second gives the English equivalents of the characters. 

Full title:
Documents showing the Vai language and script from Liberia
Created:
c. 1849
Format:
Manuscript
Usage terms
Public Domain
Shelfmark:
Add MS 17817A, B

Related articles

Language, script and symbol in West Africa

Article by:
Dr Marion Wallace, Dr Janet Topp Fargion

West Africa is a place of great diversity – in language, in writing, in the hugely varied means of recording information and passing it on.