Message about Astrid Ramsey?

Hi, all.  Donald Ramsey posted a fascinating message yesterday about his mother Astrid, who was one of the plate writers for the Gregg company. 
His message came through my e-mail and looked just like every other message from the group, but it isn’t showing up on the web page.  So I’m curious–did everyone get his message?  And does anyone know why it didn’t start a new discussion thread, and doesn’t even appear under “general” or “anything goes”? 

(by alex for everyone)


17 comments Add yours
  1. Sure can; here's the original message: __________   Googled my Mom, who had written a number of books of children's music, and was delighted to see that it found her name mentioned by someone in this group!  I had no idea there was a Gregg group.  I have not read the group archives, but I have to wonder if shorthand is still being taught, and how much it is being used, professionally or otherwise.    My mother, Astrid F. Ramsey, (earlier Astrid F. Gescheidt) worked at the Gregg Publishing Company for many years.  She wrote the original shorthand "plates", as she called them, for The Gregg Writer and the early years of Today's Secretary.  Also, I believe, one major book (Gregg Speed Studies?) and several literary booklets, at least one of which, I think, was in another language, possibly Russian.   My Dad, David J. Ramsey, also worked at Gregg's, and of course met Mom there.  So you can see that I am something of a stakeholder in the Gregg story.  I must collect my memories and write something that might be suitable for posting to this group in the Document file, if there is any interest.   In about 1950, I took a semester of shorthand in school (as if I had a choice!) and can boast that after half a century of inactivity I can actually read that opening sentence on the group website!  "May earth and sky be good to you."  Forgive me, but Mom was a perfectionist, shorthand-wise, and would have had a problem with that last "to you" form.  She would have re-written that form until she got the t perfectly straight, and then pasted a "patch" onto the plate!  I think I still have her little rubber paste applicator, as well as her pen holder and a lot of steel pen nibs.   My very best to all you dinosaurs!   Donald D. Ramsey All Books Considered (out of print books) 10408 Montgomery Ave., Kensington MD 20895 (301) 929-0036

  2. I noticed Ms. Ramsey is credited with some of the plates in Gregg Speed Studies along with Mr. Zoubek and Mr. Radar. How cool, to actually have worked with those people.

    I've always been curious as to how the plates were made. I know they didn't have access to our "modern" computerized printing equipment. Did the writers use ink and paper which was subsequently photographed to make plates? Hate to show my ignorance since I actually have worked for a printer, but always with "cold" vs. "hot" type and now everything is swiftly done thanks to databases and the Adobe Creative Suite.

    Anyway, my compliments to Donald on his mother's very neat shorthand. (I think I spotted her contributions as I am familiar with Zoubek's and Radar's individual writing styles.

  3. I may have posted this before but. . . .

    As someone who worked at McGraw-Hill, I can tell you Jerry Edleman sat with a dip pen with special (cooked) ink and wrote each and every outline. Jerry wrote the plates for DJ and S90 books. He was trained by Louis Leslie himself. (As I recall, he used a felt marker for the Spanish S90 version which explains why it looks "funny.")

    The writing was done on special paper and never really dried so one had to be extremely careful. Corrections/changes were made by pasting cut outs on the original sheets.

    Plates were made from those sheets and the final output was printed from the plates. I think I've also mentioned that some of the pre-Anniversary texts were written large and then reduced.


  4. Just amazing to think about the kind of technology that went into all these Gregg shorthand publications.   Do you know anything about that mysterious cooked ink?  Did McGraw-Hill buy it that way, or did they buy some other kind of ink and cook it?  I've never heard ink described that way before.    I wonder if the switch to a felt marker was because the special ink and paper were no longer available . . . calligraphers face some of the same kind of dilemmas, as do people who write with fountain pens to some extent (you sure can't buy fountain pen ink at Wal-Mart!)   Alex

  5. Cooked ink?  You must be kidding.  In all the years I observed Mom writing plates, I never saw or heard of such a thing.  Maybe it was necessitated in the later years for some reason I can't imagine.  Mom always used black India ink, which came in a somewhat odd little bottle with a stopper, in contrast to the ordinary commercial bottled ink with a screw cap.  The same India ink, as far as I know, that was commonly used by commercial artists, and probably is still available.
    She used steel nibs in a pen holder.  I can't imagine how much use it might take to wear out a steel nib!  The plates were written on a special ruled paper, with a rather shiny surface, and faint blue ruling as is commonly used in photographing for printing–the blue isn't picked up by the camera.  I think the columns were continuous, in effect, and the actual layout was then done by a layout editor who would cut them to conform to the available space on the pages of The Gregg Writer.  I couldn't say whether the cutting was done before or after the photography, but probably after.
    Incidentally, Pitman not only required variations in shading, but the line spacing of the ruling was about twice as wide as the ruling of Gregg steno books, because there was significance to whether a form was above, on, or below the line.  Or something like that.  The result, of course, was less material per page.
    Felt-tip pens?  Now I know you're kidding.  In practice, maybe; but original plates?  Makes the skin crawl!
    Yes, corrections were made by pasting little patches, sometimes after rewriting a form many times until it was absolutely perfect.
    Donald D. Ramsey
    ALL BOOKS CONSIDERED, 10408 Montgomery Ave., Kensington, MD 20895 USA
    (301) 929-0036 [email protected]

    See what's free at

  6. "Cooked," in this instance, does mean heated to boiling.  If memory serves me correctly, it was boiled for quite some time.  It's possible Astrid received the finished product or the formulation of India Ink changed over the yeras and proved unacceptable.  I know Jerry didn't use regular India ink.   The shiny paper with blue lines was still in use for S90.   As for the markers, take a peek at the Spanish version of S90.  It even looks different.   Marc  

  7. Although I have no personal knowledge of how the plates were reproduced, India ink sounds right – take a look at all the shorthand texts up to DJS – in particular the plates through simplified LOOK like they were written with a fine point using India ink. I also appreciated the info about the blue-ruled paper … so that's how they wrote on an even level.

    The Gregg Publishing Company not only owned a great shorthand system, it was comprised of marketing experts. I especially like the way The Gregg Writer provided penmanship and speed tips, combined with fun short stories, anecdotes and articles. It's a shame that McGraw-Hill phased it out.

  8. I agree.  Is it possible that the deglamorizing of shorthand was a case of McGraw-Hill dictating to the market, as opposed to the other way around?  Maybe a more idealistic publisher will take over the copyright and rekindle the revolution for us.  I'm sure McGraw-Hill would let it go at a reasonable price—as we've heard from a member, their customer service department didn't even know they published Gregg!   ______________________________ Shorthand: isn't it about time?

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