The long history of Pitman Shorthand

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Here at St Bride Foundation we have a fascination for the slightly less than normal typeface. After Mr Shaw and his Shavian Script, we have recently been re-discovering the wonderful Pitman Shorthand. In the library we have a collection of over 3,000 books and pamphlets, all related to Pitman Shorthand. Unfortunately though, approximately only half of them are catalogued at present.

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The example shown here of Pitman is a shorthand version of the Book of Psalms. This was translated and subsequently written by Jeremiah Rich in an early form of shorthand. It can be gathered from the black lines underneath the text that the book would have been printed using engraved copper plates

The book, and the 2,999 other pieces of the collection, made their way to the library thanks to Edward Harry Butler, the man behind the book ‘A History of British Shorthand’ published in 1951.

Shorthand has never really been a widely understood form of writing. This shows in the intended use of the shorthand-printed Bibles. They were small enough to fit in handbags, and some people even wore them on chains. And we thought Flava Flav was original.

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