James Hatley Frere

James Hatley Frere (1779–1866), was an English writer on prophecy.


Frere was the sixth son of John Frere, of Roydon, South Norfolk, and Beddington, Surrey, by Jane, daughter and heiress of John Hookham of London. On 15 June 1809 he married Merian, second daughter of Matthew Martin, F.R.S., of Poets' Corner, Westminster, by whom he had five sons.

Frere met Edward Irving in 1825, and influenced him in the direction of the study of biblical prophecy.[1] He died at the residence of his third son, the Rev. John Alexander Frere, Shillington vicarage, Bedfordshire, on 8 December 1866.


About 1838 Frere introduced a tactile alphabet, a phonetic system for teaching the blind to read. He had the advantage of having his plan carried out by a blind man, who suggested several changes. His characters consist of straight lines, half circles, hooked lines, and angles of forty-five degrees, together with a hollow and solid circle. He also invented the ‘return’ lines—that is to say, the lines in his book are read from left to right and from right to left alternately, the letters themselves being reversed in the return lines. Although useful in enabling uneducated persons to read in a short space of time, Frere's system was found to vitiate pronunciation. In 1871 it was in use at only three home institutions.

He devised a cheap method of setting up and stereotyping his books. ‘The letters, formed of copper wire, are laid on a tin plate, previously washed over with a solution of zinc; when heat is applied to the under-surface, the letter becomes soldered on to the plate, and such plates produced extremely good printing’. T. M. Lucas of Bristol and William Moon of Brighton adopted this system of stereotyping.


George Stanley Faber and Samuel Roffey Maitland found Frere's biblical studies of some interest. He was a premillennialist.[2]

Aided by Miss Yates of Fairlawn, Frere was able to have ‘The Book of the Prophet Isaiah’ printed from embossed metallic plates according to his stereotyping method (London, 1843–9). His other works are:


  1. Stephen Hunt, Christian Millenarianism: from the early church to Waco (2001), p. 106–7; Google Books.
  2. Jane Garnett, Colin Matthew, Henry Colin Gray Matthew, Revival and Religion since 1700: essays for John Walsh (1993), p. 106; Google Books.
  3. George Reginald Balleine, A History of the Evangelical Party in the Church of England (1909), pp. 207–8; archive.org.
  4. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Colmer (editor), On the Constitution of the Church and State (1975), p. 133 note 1; Google Books.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Frere, James Hatley". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

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