Mystery shorthand from 18th century

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From: MSN NicknameNiftyBoy1  (Original Message)Sent: 7/21/2007 10:10 PM
I was browsing Google Images for “shorthand”, and came across a puzzler. Someone has a journal from the 1700s (England) with what appears to be poetry written in shorthand in it. Dividing the pages into two columns indicates it’s an experienced stenographer. Unfortunately, nobody was able to figure out what system it was.

Here’s the picture:
http://i146.photobucket.com/albums/r248/bill_sylvester/shorthand4.jpg

And here’s the discussion:
http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=776727

I’m personally intrigued by it, but don’t know enough about old, old systems to tell which one it even resembles. Any hypotheses out there?

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From: MSN NicknameMerove4Sent: 7/22/2007 8:54 AM
It would depend on when in the 1700s it dates from, but Taylor’s stenography would seem consistent with the forms there:

http://www.geocities.com/taquigra/taylor.htm

Just briefly looking over the consonants on the page it would seem to be phonetically plausible that that’s what it’s using, but I don’t know enough about the system to be sure. Also Taylor’s system was only published in 1786, so the dates might not be consistent.

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From: MSN Nicknameroutine-siblingSent: 7/22/2007 10:51 AM
I think this is Thomas Gurney’s Brachygraphy. Logographs like “maybe”, “this”, “he”, “have” seem about the right frequency.

The first line seems something like: “How it goes…have…guessed/ghost did but this.”

The document I was looking at is an 1835 edition:

http://www.archive.org/details/brachygraphyorea00gurniala

It’s a very nice looking shorthand. Does anyone know anything about it?

Good luck!

Good luck!

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From: MSN Nicknameroutine-siblingSent: 7/22/2007 10:55 AM
I should have added that it’s an 1835 edition, but originally published 1772.

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From: MSN NicknameNiftyBoy1Sent: 7/22/2007 3:56 PM
I think you’re onto something, Merove4! The letters match and the systems look very much alike. There’s just the matter of if any of us is enough of a shorthand geek to learn such a system 🙂

Anyone up for the challenge to decipher this?

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From: MSN NicknameChuck—-Sent: 7/22/2007 4:30 PM

I don’t think it’s Taylor, though.  Click here for Taylor’s book, and compare the shorthand.
I tend to think it is Gurney, or something else.

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From: MSN NicknameJRGAnniversarySent: 7/23/2007 12:50 PM
Thomas Gurney’s Brachygraphy – the reference caught my fancy and looking up Gurney was surprised to learn that was the system used by Charles Dickens during his reporting days. How cool is that! Checking out the book which the url brought up, I can only express surprise that so many of the exercises come directly from the Bible, reflecting that indeed shorthand was used to record sermons as well as political speeches for generations. The system is very attractive to the eye as is Thomas shorthand. Interesting to me is that the idea of only writing the consonant frame of words occurred so long before the advent of Pitman. I know that Pitman writers adore the system, but as a confirmed Gregg-ite (careful, light-line phonography can be habit forming), I feel comparison of the systems is like trying to compare bananas with rattle snakes … Hopefully I’ll have time to look more carefully into Gurney … I’ll be satisfied when I can write “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
3 comments Add yours
  1. I'm delighted we're looking at the 18th Century because something has me stumped.

    I've been in touch with the assistant keeper at Oxford Uni's Museum of the History of Science where they have lecture notes from the natural philosopher Benjamin Martin.

    He seems to have popped a bit of shorthand in the margins but I can't for the life in me work out what they are. The best guess at the moment is its some form of personalised derivative of Byrom – and I can see the "18" in there.

    My problem may stem from the paucity of shorthand outlines to work with, compare etc. Am I missing something obvious. I've added the files but for more see:

    http://www.shorthandworld.co.uk/Martin.html

    and

    http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/staff/saj/martin/

    Any light on this and I'd be extremely grateful.

    Laurence
    ShorthandWorld1

    Attachment: BM2.jpg

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