before fountain pens

Since fountain pens weren’t very practical or in widespread use before about 1884, I’m wondering how shorthand writers managed to record verbatim speech in the early 1800’s and earlier. Gregg doesnt really fall into this time period, but certainly Pitman does. Did stenographers dip their pens during pauses? Was there an equivalent of a musician’s “page turner” to give fresh pens to the writer? Were pencils used instead of pens? Perhaps I am missing something obvious, but how did they do it?


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  1. Hi Brian,   I believe that these dip pens (steel and quill) could be used for verbatim reporting because the speed of speech was much slower and more deliberate then – which is also why less efficient shorthand systems (than Pitman or Gregg) written with less efficient pens were up to the job.  And as you say, in real life there are natural pauses in speech which can be taken advantage of. Professional shorthand writers also train themselves to retain words in their mind, so that when their pen returns to the paper, they use a quick burst of speed to catch up.  I've never seen any reference to page turners, so I presume they just had to catch up!   In actual fact, Pitman shorthand was not invented until 1837, and not in verbatim reporting use to any extent until after the mid 1800s.  The systems of Gurney, Taylor, Mavor and others were used before Pitman and up until the beginning of the 19th century.   Cheers, Ian

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