Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pitman's Shorthand

I found the strangest book yesterday, at Paul's Bookstore on State Street. It's an illustrated copy of The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith. That's not the strange part - the strange part is that it's in "the style of phonography" and is completely illegible to me.

Page after page just has these little squiggles instead of nice Roman letters. The cover says the book is in Pitman's shorthand (Pitman is the publisher); it's the title page that says phonography. If I remember right, the publishing date was abbreviated to the '60s, which must be the 1860s, based on the apparent age of the book and the fact that Pitman was alive then.

Phonography, or Pitman's shorthand, is a phonetic version of English, written in those little squiggles, which emphasize particular sounds. Gregg shorthand is now more common (at least in the U.S.).

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