“The Story of British Shorthand”

Hey, all.
Saturday I received a book in the mail from Great Britain that I bought for $20 on E-Bay:  “The Story of British Shorthand” by E.H. Butler, published by Pitman in 1951. 
I’ve only had a chance to glance through it, but it looks to be an interesting find . . . not so much a polemic for the Pitman system as a true (but somewhat idiosyncratic) history.  There seems to be a fair treatment of Gregg (several pages worth).  There are funny chapter titles, such as:
Shorthand and Shakespeare
Enter the “Good Fairy”
The Clans Foregather
Beer and Bibles [honest]
Some Unpublished Systems
More “Shorthand Mysteries”
Shorthand Epitaphs and Wills [honest again]
Shorthand Societies
Shorthand “Curiosities”
Looks like a fascinating book.  Has anyone else ever seen it or read it?

(by alex for everyone)

3 comments Add yours
  1. Alex, that sounds very interesting.

    It would be nice if you'd give us an idea of what Pitman says about Gregg. (If my experience is any indication, the various shorthand system officials lied through their teeth about each other)

    I'd listen to every word…

  2. Well, so far it's truly a fascinating book.  I just read the chapter about Shorthand and Shakespeare, discussing evidence that his plays were recorded by shorthand writers . . .   The one thing I regret is that there are not many facsimiles of early shorthand systems.  Lots of verbal descriptions, but very few photos or other reprints.   I skipped ahead and read the pages about Gregg.  As I said, the book is not a polemic for the Pitman system; it was published by the Pitman company, but the author is objective (and enthusiastic) about shorthand in general.  He presents a fairly good summary of the development of Gregg, and acknowledges the system's success in the U.S. (which he attributes to three factors:  1–apart from the eastern seabord, shorthand was virtually unknown; 2–no one system was predominant, due to existing copyright laws; and 3–the development of the U.S. secondary educational system that forced schools to teach shorthand throughout the U.S.).  He also acknowledges Gregg's devotion to shorthand and acknowledges him as one of the very few shorthand inventors who ended up wealthy and successful.   The author seems to give the same fair treatment to everyone.  I suppose that as I get into the book I'll find rather more information about Pitman than others.   Alex 

  3. One interesting thing to note about "E H Butler" who wrote the book is that it's the same person as Harry Butler who wrote the "Teeline Shorthand Made Simple" book, and other Teeline books.  I think he thought Teeline was an easily taught system that gave good results for reporters and secretaries, though not necessarily that it was superior to Pitman per se.   As you say, Alex, he acknowledges Gregg as a consumate businessman, whereas Pitman certainly wasn't. Despite the popularity of his system, he spent much of his life very poor.   When it comes to the actual system used, he says that it's the writer that counts. There have been talented verbatim reporters even in systems such as Taylor and Gurney – very crude systems in comparison to Pitman or Gregg. The same goes for reporters using machine shorthand.   I agree that the book would have benefited from more illustrations.  But what I do think is wonderful about his book is that he deals with personalities and events. Other shorthand histories I've read have been quite dry expositions of various shorthand systems (though intersting nonetheless 🙂   Cheers, Ian

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